CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With a little more than five months until its application deadline, the city of Charleston remains undecided as to whether it will reapply for the state's Municipal Home Rule Program or not.
During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers added to the bill a set of limitations regarding cities' abilities to implement gun control laws. It passed after a House-Senate compromise was reached.
Under the new version of the law (which also expanded the program to include 16 new cities), municipalities that participate in home rule may do so only if they repeal city gun ordinances. Charleston is the only original home-rule city that has such laws.
Those laws were implemented in the 1990s to eliminate a drugs-for-guns trade between dealers in Charleston, the Midwest and Northeast, as well as to bring down the city's high murder rate, according to City Council President Tom Lane, a Republican councilman at-large.
"That's why we picked a 72-hour waiting period [for the purchase of guns]," Lane said of the gun-sale ordinance that was meant to discourage dealers from purchasing a large amount of guns during weekend trips to the city.
Charleston also limits the number of guns a person can buy each month and has a registration requirement similar to federal background checks for firearms purchases.
Because of last year's amendments to the home-rule bill, municipalities no longer will be able to restrict the ability to openly carry firearms. Guns could be barred from municipal buildings, but those with concealed-carry permits will still be allowed to carry weapons on municipal property, such as parks and city-owned buildings.
Lane said he isn't prepared to issue an opinion as to whether Charleston will opt out of home rule next year or not.
"I want to have a better understanding as to the full ramifications of it," Lane said, "but obviously, it is a matter we will have to take up in earnest come later in the spring."
Mayor Danny Jones said he doesn't expect the Legislature to change last year's amendments in the upcoming legislative session. The city has until June 1 to reapply to the program.