CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to nullify all city and county firearms regulations statewide (HB2760) passed the House of Delegates on Monday with a 94-4 vote, over objections from some delegates from Charleston, which has had a gun-control law for two decades.
The bill would take precedence over any city or county ordinances regulating the sale or possession of firearms or ammunition.
Proponents of the bill argued it is important to have uniformity in state gun laws, with several citing the inconvenience of Charleston's 72-hour waiting period to buy handguns.
Delegates from Charleston said the city should be allowed to set its own standards for public safety.
"I was elected to come here and protect the children that walk the streets of Charleston," said Delegate Meshea Poore, D-Kanawha, whose district includes the East End, West Side and downtown Charleston.
"When someone can get drugs in place for a cheap gun, think how that affects our children," Poore said. She noted that the city's ordinance was enacted in the 1990s to crack down on a drugs-for-guns trade that brought drug dealers from Detroit, Cleveland and Washington, D.C., to Charleston.
Delegate Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha, posed questions to House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, asking if the bill had been requested by law enforcement officials, or by the federal government, or if there had been problems with enforcement of the Charleston ordinance.
Each time, Miley answered no.
"If we pass this, can anyone take an AK-47 into a municipal pool?" Guthrie asked.
"Unless it's otherwise prohibited in the state code, I suppose they can," Miley said.
Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, noted that Charleston no longer has the clout in the Legislature that it had in 1999, when Charleston's gun ordinance was grandfathered into legislation that otherwise prohibits municipalities from restricting gun sales.
Earlier Monday, Hunt noted he had advanced a bill similar to HB2760 out of the House Political Subdivisions Committee, HB2558, with assurances from House leadership that it would not proceed further through the legislative process.