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Statehouse Beat: Delegates' muted reaction

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One thing that was noticeably missing in the aftermath of the Senate's decision not to take up the city gun ordinance nullification bill (HB2760) this session: There was not one peep of outrage, or even public comment, from any of the 94 members of the House of Delegates who voted for the bill.

There are probably two reasons for that.

One, the 94 delegates had already gone on record showing their obedience to the gun lobby.

Two, the city ordinances in question in reality are no more of an infringement on the Second Amendment than city noise ordinances infringe on one's First Amendment right of free expression.

In either instance, it's simply a recognition that when large numbers of people live within a confined area, rules have to be applied to assure the health, well-being and quality of life for all.

(Meanwhile, Protective Services is continuing its investigation of threats made against Senate Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, for failing to put the bill on his committee's agenda.)

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Despite declarations that the bill will not be taken up by the Senate this session, senators were inundated with emails over the past week demanding passage of SB2760, which were generated from a website operated by an organization called the Firearms Policy Coalition.

As of Thursday evening, Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, had received nearly 700 emails generated from the FPC website. (All e-mails were addressed to all 34 members of the Senate.)

Most were a stock statement of "I strongly support HB2760 because it's time for the Legislature to restore sanity in West Virginia gun laws and pass this badly-needed preemption measure." However, some of the messages were personalized.

What caught McCabe's attention was that, of the several hundred emails, only about a half-dozen were from West Virginia, and none were from Charleston or Kanawha County.

Many were from California, and at least one was from Honolulu, Hawaii. (If I were in Honolulu, I think I would have better things to do than fret over gun laws in West Virginia.)

One of the few emails from West Virginia was from William Glenn of West Hamlin, who wrote, "I currently will not shop in Charleston or even go there unless I have to because of the horrible gun laws."

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Quote of the week: "I don't think the power of these people is real." -- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, regarding the ability of West Virginia Citizens Defense League to carry out promises to defeat legislators who stopped HB2760 in the next election cycle.

To that end, I noticed that WVCDL head Keith Morgan's Twitter account has a grand total of 51 followers.

Among Morgan's recent tweets: "WCDL turning over stones and exposing slimy creatures to sunlight. Kessler, Snyder, Palumbo = Feinstein, Bloomberg, Brady."

(In Morgan's bizarro world, James Brady is a bad guy for advocating for handgun control ... after being permanently disabled by an assassin's bullet.)

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True story: After having kowtowed to the gun lobby, and after allowing a bill to die to add sexual orientation to the classes protected under the state Human Rights Act (some delegates from rural areas indicated they personally supported the bill, but could not vote for it for fear of being savaged by pastors and church groups in their communities), House members last week actually got into an extended floor debate over why the state has such difficulty recruiting new businesses to West Virginia.

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While the 2013 House of Delegates may not be remembered as one of the more progressive legislative bodies, credit the House for passing a primary offense seat belt bill (HB2108), bringing to an end a 20-year struggle to even get the bill out of committee.

(Not to mention that it took nearly a decade to get a secondary offense law on the books, in 1993.)

While many House Republicans took the position that personal rights (including the right to take stupid risks) trump public safety, passage of the bill was a bipartisan effort, with 20 of the 46 House GOP members voting for the legislation on the 55-44 passage vote.

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Finally, regarding last week's item about the late Sen. Jae Spears, D-Randolph, Gibbs Kinderman of Allegheny Mountain Radio sent along these thoughts:

"Jae was a large-spirited woman -- always attentive to Pocahontas County, the smallest one in her district -- and a real champion of the little guy. Funny story -- folks in our county REALLY wanted to hear WVU football on the radio -- and couldn't get it on any other stations. MSN refused to allow it, because we couldn't run the ads."

(Which seems unfair, considering that we've learned that West Virginia Radio Corp. not only had a no-bid contract for the Mountaineer Sports Network game-casts, but also got the broadcast rights for free ... )

"We whispered in Jae's ear, and she just happened to mention it to the WVU president while sitting in his box at a ball game. [She was Finance chairwoman then.] Monday morning I got a call (from MSN) ... and we've been the only non-comm [non-commercial stations] with WVU football for the past 20-plus years."

True enough, AMR stations WNMP-FM in Marlinton and WVMR-FM in Hillsboro are both proud Mountaineer sports affiliates to this day.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.

 


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