"The atmosphere was highly charged, the debate was vitriolic," he said. "It was the most difficult bill to get passed I've had in my career. I had to twist a lot of arms."
On July 20, barely two months after the Judd brothers were gunned down on Summers Street, council members passed the gun bill by the slimmest of margins, 14-12.
Supporters hailed what they hoped would be the first step in a statewide effort to restrict gun sales. Opponents vowed to fight on in court.
"It was basically passed by one vote, because a tie would have defeated the bill," said Chester Thompson, the former councilman for downtown Charleston.
"There were very outrageous exaggerations as to the need -- 60 to 80 percent of the guns used in crime in New York City and Washington came from Charleston," said Thompson, who voted against the bill.
"The supporters deserve a lot of credit. They did a lot of work putting up with the outrageous claims on both sides."
The restrictions went into effect right away.
"The immediate aftermath of passage of the ordinance is that some of the shops that sold firearms closed and we saw an almost immediate reduction of the guns-for-drugs trade in Charleston," Lane said. "If you compare the numbers, I'm confident you'd see a reduction in murders and violent crime."
Gun advocates soon turned their attention to the state Capitol. Despite pleas from then-Mayor Kemp Melton and Danny Jones, then the city's emergency services director, an NRA-backed bill to prohibit cities from limiting gun sales swept through the Legislature.
House members, perhaps with an eye on the upcoming election, passed the bill 96-2. State senators followed suit on a 30-3 vote. Only a veto by Gov. Gaston Caperton kept Charleston's law on the books.
A modified bill resurfaced two years later, and once again passed. Gov. Cecil Underwood vetoed it, then apologized a week later, saying he didn't realize cities like Charleston would not be affected.
Finally in 1999, the Legislature barred cities from passing new laws to restrict gun sales. Cities like Charleston with laws already on the books were grandfathered in.
This year, no fewer than 20 bills to weaken or repeal existing firearm laws are in the pipeline at the state Legislature, including several that would roll back city laws.
"Let me talk about guns, because there's some weird stuff going on out there," Mayor Danny Jones said while briefing City Council members Monday evening. "The House is going to vote to take away our gun ordinance. I don't know what's going to happen in the Senate, but it's pretty close."
Other bills would overturn a city ban on carrying weapons into City Hall, the Civic Center, Municipal Auditorium and other city property like parks, Jones said, and require the city to pay legal bills and expenses of anyone who wants to challenge city gun rules.
Jones blamed the National Rifle Association. "The NRA is so discredited nationally by [Gabrielle Giffords] and Newtown they can't go anywhere, but they can come here."
In a letter sent to all House members this week, Jones urged delegates to leave Charleston's gun laws alone.
"By turning back the clock and forcing local governments into a one-size-fits-all mandate under the banner of gun rights, the end result will empower drug dealers and gun runners to strengthen their trade in our capital city," he wrote.
"I doubt it will change anything," Jones conceded. "I may personally go to the Senate. I think the cause may be more hopeful there, although the NRA has a lock on those members."
Jones cited a 2001 incident in which federal prosecutors learned the gun used to injure two New Jersey police officers was bought by a straw purchaser at Will Jewelry & Loan, a South Charleston pawnshop.
"People do come here to sell drugs and buy guns," Jones said. "It's not a debatable issue. Our law slows them down. This will change us from a Sam's Club to an open-air market."
Staples said Charleston's law is just one piece in solving the crime puzzle. "At least we can say we have eliminated in Charleston the mass straw purchases. That ordinance in no way restricted people who hunt. It just didn't.
"I'd love for them not to bother cities," he said. "They passed these laws for a reason."
Lane said he thinks people pushing the new state gun laws are buying into the NRA rhetoric. "I'm incredulous that people think we need more guns.
"I'm very disappointed that other leaders from this county would pander to the NRA, to gun-rights people who in my opinion don't make a lot of sense. I can't believe what they're doing.
He said he was "disheartened that the Legislature could dismantle what we've accomplished.
"The city supported it, the electorate supported it and it has made the capital city much safer."
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.