CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A West Virginia gun rights organization has requested an injunction in Kanawha County Circuit Court to try to force the city of Charleston to abandon a waiting period and limit on the purchase of handguns and allow the carry of firearms on city property.
The West Virginia Citizens Defense League filed the injunction request Tuesday. Lawyers for the gun advocacy group want city officials to abide by a legislative decision stripping cities of their ability to regulate the sale and regulation of guns.
Early this year, the Legislature approved a law taking the power to regulate guns away from individual cities, saying gun laws throughout the state should be uniform. The law effectively nullifies individual gun laws passed by cities.
Among the ordinances nullified by the new state law is a handgun ordinance passed by Charleston City Council in the 1990s that limits handgun purchases within city limits to one a month, and requires a three-day waiting period for buying a pistol. The ordinance was originally crafted to help stop local straw purchases of guns, which were being bought by out-of-state drug dealers with local drug profits and resold in cities like New York and Detroit.
Charleston also restricts the carry of firearms on city property, as do several other cities in the state. Those laws no longer would be in effect under the new state law.
"Charleston is operating in clear violation of state law by continuing to operate their unconstitutional gun registry, and enforcing other city ordinances in blatant opposition of the will of the West Virginia Legislature and the people of West Virginia," said Citizens Defense League President Keith Morgan. "Mayor [Danny] Jones is not above the law."
Charleston City Attorney Paul Ellis said the city would review the lawsuit and respond in court.
Lawmakers tied the gun law legislation to the statewide Home Rule Program, which gives participating cities the power to enact their own taxes and pass other localized regulations. Under the provisions of the new gun law, Charleston can keep its gun ordinances on the books but will have to opt out of Home Rule to do so.
City officials have yet to decide if they want to drop Home Rule in order to keep city gun laws in force.
Earlier this year, the Charleston City Council voted in favor of a half-cent sales tax that is allowed under Home Rule. Lawyers for the Citizens Defense League argue that the new sales tax proves city officials have no intention of dropping Home Rule and should be forced to abandon their city gun ordinances now, rather than waiting until a deadline expires for opting out of the Home Rule Project.
Lawyers for the Citizens Defense League want a jury trial.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.