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W.Va. Attorney General files motion to dismiss lawsuit about 'gun bill'

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The West Virginia Attorney General's Office is filing a motion to dismiss a case from the city of Charleston which challenges a new municipal gun law.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said April 17 his office has filed motions to intervene in and dismiss a Kanawha County Circuit Court lawsuit concerning a state law that seeks to ensure firearm laws are applied uniformly across the state.

"The city of Charleston violated the most basic court rule: that there has to be conflict between two parties. In this lawsuit, it is the City of Charleston versus no one," Morrisey said in a press release. "The city may have questions regarding the new law, but this is not the correct method to seek those kinds of answers. The Legislature stated its intention to create uniform rules relating to citizens' Second Amendment rights; the city's actions disregard basic court rules by which everyone must abide. While laws pertaining to citizens' gun rights sometimes spark strong reactions, the rule of law — and not emotions — must always be followed."

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones issued a statement shortly after Morrisey's announcement, saying the City of Charleston has a right for judicial clarification about the "confusing and ambiguous law."

"The City of Charleston is not surprised by Attorney General Morrisey's attempt to involve his office in the case we filed that attempts to keep hand guns out of Head Start Programs and other Kanawha County School activities that take place in our municipal recreation centers," Jones said in a statement. "We should not have to wait until someone brings a gun into a Head Star Program to seek relief, as the Attorney General would suggest." 

The city's lawsuit was in response to the West Virginia Legislature's passing of Senate Bill 317, a measure that seeked to create uniformity in firearm laws across the state.

The office's motions say the city of Charleston's lawsuit should be dismissed because the city did not sue anyone. Instead, the city asks the Circuit Court judge to render an opinion on the "validity" and "construction" of the law, which passed by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities of the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

The Office contends that request violates basic court rules.
Morrisey said the office's motions focus on the fact that the city's complaint does not list an adverse party. In short, the city is suing no one. The office's motions also point out that the city cannot seek a judge's opinion on laws that are not being contested by two parties.
In addition, Senate Bill 317 says municipalities may not restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens with properly obtained concealed handgun permits from entering the city's recreational centers so long as such firearms are securely stored out of view and cannot be accessed by others.

On March 26, the city of Charleston filed a complaint in the Kanawha County Circuit Court concerning the new law.The city's complaint seeks a declaration regarding the "construction" and "viability" of the new statute.
"If the city is allowed to proceed with this case, anyone in the state who doesn't like a law could file a similar action, burdening our courts and doing great damage to our legal system," Morrisey said.
The motions were filed in the case 14-C-604, which is being heard by Circuit Court Judge Carrie Webster.