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Jones criticizes gun bill passed by House

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones accused some delegates who overwhelmingly passed a bill Monday that would revoke Charleston's handgun laws of not understanding the bill they passed and the city's laws it would overturn.

In a morning news conference at City Hall, Jones said the bill (HB2760) goes far beyond pre-empting all municipal and county gun regulations in West Virginia. The bill swept through the House on a 94-4 vote.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law, the bill would overturn a 20-year-old Charleston law aimed at ending the drugs-for-handguns trade by limiting sales to one handgun a month after a three-day waiting period and background checks.

"I listened to the [House] debate," Jones said. "I don't believe the membership familiarized themselves with the content of the bill.

"I think Delegate [Woody] Ireland [R-Ritchie] held up his Cabela's card." Another delegate said he wanted to buy hunting guns at the Charleston Cabela's, Jones said.

"You know what? Our ordinance just applies to handguns. You can go to Cabela's and fill up your car with hunting rifles. That leads me to believe they've not familiarized themselves with our ordinance.

"We knew they wanted to go after our ordinance," Jones said. But after studying the bill, City Attorney Paul Ellis determined the measure adds a number of burdensome restrictions on cities and counties, he said. The bill, he said, would:

* Create a private cause of action where any state firearm owner could sue the city, even if he or she hasn't been subject to or threatened with local enforcement.

* Require the city to pay legal bills and expenses if it loses gun suits.

* Allow a group like the National Rifle Association to sue the city if it perceives the rights of one of its members were affected by a local law.

* Possibly void zoning laws that forbid gun shops in residential neighborhoods.

* Ban gun buyback programs.

"They [legislators] may say that's not the intent," Jones said. "Well guess what -- we have a disagreement.

"It prohibits gun buyback programs. We had one ... back when [Dallas] Staples was chief. Why would they care? What business is it of theirs?

"This is an NRA bill," Jones said. "They're trying to set us up for lawsuits.

"The Legislature wants to set us up. If we lose, we pay. Nowhere does it say if they lose, they pay.

"If we concede just taking away Charleston's gun ordinance, this does a lot of other things," Jones said. "That's what I'm concerned about." Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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