CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A bill now in the state Senate would undo part of the state's home rule law that prevents cities from enacting gun-control laws stronger than state laws.
But that doesn't mean Charleston, or any other city, would be able to pass tougher gun-control laws. The point of this year's bill (SB317) is just to "get the gun debate out of home rule," said Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, a co-sponsor of the bill.
Last year, legislators were renewing the home rule program, which allows some cities to have more local control over their taxes and other laws. House of Delegates members changed the bill to prevent cities from having tougher gun-control laws than other places in West Virginia.
That mostly affected Charleston, which has had restrictions on gun sales for 20 years -- originally to crack down on drugs-for-guns trading and violence in the city's downtown area.
This year's bill -- "requesting uniform regulation of firearms, ammunition and accessories" -- makes it so a city doesn't have to give up its firearms regulations in exchange for home rule.
But the bill also says that no city will have control over the sale and carrying of firearms. The law would also eliminate a previous clause grandfathering in municipalities that already had their own firearms regulations.
"They would have a simple pre-emption bill that says no municipality shall have the ability to enact or enforce that are more restrictive than state or federal law," said Kessler. "There would be a unified system of gun law throughout the state."
Kessler is a critic of the bill passed last year. "They literally linked the two [home rule and gun control] and it was inappropriate," he said.
Mayor Danny Jones has said previously the city was still undecided about if it would reapply for home rule following the change in law.