City Council repeals gun ordinance

March 17, 2014
City Council repeals gun ordinance
By Rachel Molenda

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The city of Charleston’s handgun sales ordinance was eliminated Monday night after Mayor Danny Jones declared the vote an emergency and suspended the rules for a vote. Proposed bills ordinarily are read over the course of two council meetings.

“All of you, this is probably the most difficult, distasteful measure I’ve ever had to make on this council floor in all of my term here,” said Republican City Council President Tom Lane, who introduced the bill.

Lane is the longest-serving council member and wrote the city’s decades-old handgun ordinance that limited purchases to one handgun per month and implemented a three-day waiting period on those sales. The ordinance was enstated in 1993 in order to curb a drugs-for-gun-trade between Charleston, the Midwest and the Northeast, as well as decrease the city’s high murder rate.

The ordinance was eliminated Monday after the state legislature passed a bill (SB317) that would no longer allow cities to have firearms regulations greater than those of the state or federal government.

Councilman Robert Sheets, who represents Downtown and part of the East End, and Councilman At-Large Jerry Ware, both Democrats, voted against the repeal.

West Virginia Citizens Defense League President Keith Morgan was present at Monday’s council meeting, but declined to comment on the vote.

The gun rights organization requested an injunction in Kanawha County Circuit Court last December to try to force Charleston to get rid of its waiting period and limit on the purchase of handguns.

Prior to Monday’s City Council meeting, Jones told Finance Committee members he plans to “proceed to court one way or another” should Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin choose not to veto SB317.

Jones said the focus of legal action would be the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in downtown Charleston, which hosts a Head Start program run by Kanawha County Schools.

A provision in the bill requires cities to allow firearms in recreation centers as long at the carrier has a concealed-carry permit and the gun is stored. While it’s not clear whether the center in question would qualify as a school, current law makes it a felony to carry firearms onto school property.

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