CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In response to the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, West Virginia lawmakers plan to let the federal government take the lead on any possible gun control legislation.
But at the state level, legislators say they will look at behavioral health funding, school safety and mental hygiene laws in the upcoming session, which starts in February.
"I would not expect the state to consider any kind of ban legislation," Senate President Jeff Kessler said Tuesday. "These kinds of things are better addressed at the federal level, for uniformity."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said he's already heard a "number of proposals floating around."
"Congress can take the strongest step on this," Palumbo said. "Unless there's a national approach, I don't think it's going to be very effective."
House Health Committee Chairman Don Perdue said it doesn't make sense for individual states to pass gun-control legislation.
"The legislative solution has to be something embraced by the entire nation, not something piecemeal across 50 jurisdictions," said Perdue, D-Wayne. "I can't get my mind around the level of horror this has brought to the people of Newtown and to the nation. When your youngest and smallest can't be protected, then it gives you pause that no one anywhere is safe."
State legislators said they've passed numerous "safe schools" bills in recent years. New laws address school design and require schools to have written emergency preparedness plans.
"We should do all we can to make sure our schools are as safe as possible, including increasing law enforcement presence in our schools -- a program that has been curtailed when West Virginia lost federal funding," said House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne.
"As parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, I know all legislators are unified in their desire to stop senseless acts of violence, and having talked to their own local teachers and community leaders, I expect members to have numerous proposals of how to address this," Thompson said.
Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, suggested that schools be required to use swipe card systems. Teachers and students would use such cards to enter schools. At Sandy Hook Elementary School, the gunman broke a window and jumped into the building before going on a shooting rampage.
In Kanawha County, some schools have swipe card security systems, while others have unlocked doors, allowing public access -- without permission -- during school hours.
"Why shouldn't every teacher and every student have a swipe card?" Hunt said. "If you don't have a swipe card, you don't get in."
Hunt said he would oppose policies -- such as those proposed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- that would allow school districts to decide whether teachers and principals could carry guns on campus.
"I don't think the solution is bringing guns to schools," Hunt said. "We already ban guns on school property. Nobody can have a gun within so many hundred feet of a school."