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Gun-restriction measure added to home-rule expansion bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After an amendment from a Kanawha County delegate Wednesday, a bill to extend and expand a municipal home-rule pilot project would force Charleston officials to either drop a city ordinance restricting handgun purchases or the city's continued participation in home rule.

The House of Delegates adopted an amendment by Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, which would prohibit cities participating in the home-rule program from having municipal firearms ordinances.

That would affect only Charleston, which is one of four cities participating in the home-rule pilot project and one of four cities allowed under state law to have municipal ordinances restricting handgun purchases.

The amendment was toned down from Lane's original proposal, to put the contents of a now-dead bill nullifying gun ordinances in Charleston and three other cities (HB2760) into the home-rule bill (SB435).

Unlike that bill, the amendment adopted Wednesday allows cities to have regulations prohibiting firearms in municipal buildings and facilities.

"In an effort to answer some objections to the amendment, I've added a section to allow municipalities to regulate the carry of firearms in municipal buildings," Lane told the House.

"That's clearly more reasonable," Senate Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said Wednesday evening of the amendment adopted by the House.

However, he said that he expects the Senate will refuse to concur on the House amendments to the bill, sending it to a House-Senate conference committee to work out differences in the two versions of the bill.

Snyder said there are issues with other House amendments to the bill that also need to be resolved, in addition to nullification of gun regulations.

Senate leadership halted consideration of the House bill to nullify local gun ordinances after Snyder received threats from proponents of the measure if the bill did not advance from his committee.

Lisa Dooley, executive director of the West Virginia Municipal League, said the league has issues with the amendment, even though it has been limited to affect only Charleston.

"Every mayor I've gotten a chance to talk to thinks these two issues are separate, and they should be addressed in separate bills," she said.

A legislative audit in December concluded that the initial home-rule pilot project had been successful in giving the four participating cities more autonomy in their governance and recommended expanding the project to additional cities.

The bill would allow all cities in the state to apply to take part in the new home-rule project, along with the four cities already participating, and would extend the program through July 1, 2019.

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


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