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City could concede gun laws

The City of Charleston could concede its decades-old firearms ordinances in hopes of persuading the legislature to amend a bill (SB317) that would allow those with concealed-carry permits to bring guns into municipal recreation centers.

Mayor Danny Jones said outside Monday evening's Finance Committee meeting that he would ask City Council members to consider taking the city's ordinance off the books "as part of an effort to try to bring some common sense into the legislative process."

"I think I can put the votes together and maybe the legislature will change their minds about putting guns in our rec centers," Jones told reporters.

While the bill allows those with concealed-carry permits to bring firearms into recreation centers, it also requires they be securely stored while in the facility.

City officials have expressed concern for the safety of staff and patrons of such buildings, especially those that have daycares and Head Start Programs, where children are present.

"The federal government would have to look at us in a kind of peculiar fashion when they find our their federally funded Head Start Programs are going to be done in places where the legislature is sanctioning guns to be brought in," Jones said.

Jones has been critical of the legislature's firearms bills -- past and present -- and said Monday night those laws "have always been about Charleston."

The provision in question is part of a larger bill that initially removed the requirement that cities enact no gun laws greater than state or federal laws if they wish to participate in the state's Municipal Home Rule program.

Legislators have said the bill is an effort to make gun laws uniform throughout the state, but Jones doesn't see it that way.

"They don't allow guns on the state Capitol property, yet they want us to allow guns on our property," Jones said. "If they want to make them uniform for everybody, make them uniform for everybody."

The city's 1993 ordinances were enacted as an effort to decrease a high murder rate and curb a guns-for-drugs trade between Charleston, the Midwest and the Northeast.

Charleston has a 72-hour waiting period for gun purchases, as well as limitations on the number of firearms a person may purchase each month and a registration requirement similar to federal background checks for firearms purchases.

A show of hands during Monday night's City Council meeting showed about half of the council would support removing its ordinances.

The bill is currently assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

Reach Rachel Molenda at rachel.molenda@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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