CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Four heroes stood up to gun hysteria in the House of Delegates Monday. Delegates Nancy Guthrie, Danny Wells and Meshea Poore, all D-Kanawha, and Stephen Skinner, D-Jefferson, voted against a bill to nullify all local city and county firearms regulations across West Virginia, such as Charleston's rule to curb drugs-for-guns traffic.
But 94 other delegates, like a flock of sheep, rushed en masse to please the gun lobby and pass House Bill 2760, which now goes to the Senate. We hope wiser senators block this abomination, or that Gov. Tomblin vetoes it.
In the early 1990s, Charleston was awash in drug-related shootings. Gang members and dealers came from Northern cities, sold their crack cocaine to addicts, used the profits to buy trunkloads of cheap pistols, and took them to Detroit, New York, Washington or other cities to sell to street gangs for more profit.
In those days, Summers Street was a sick joke, where no law-abiding citizen would be caught dead after twilight. Rose City Cafeteria on nearby Lee Street closed after 41 years because of the gun violence.
Charleston's 1993 law attacked the problem three ways. It limits pistol purchases to one a month. It requires a three-day waiting period. It requires criminal background checks on gun purchasers. It doesn't touch hunters or their rifles. It doesn't inconvenience law-abiding purchasers very much, but it makes a heck of a problem for criminals who tend to settle disputes over territory, merchandise and people by shooting whomever is in the way.
Delegates who voted Monday to get rid of Charleston's crime-fighting ordinance said they did it so gun laws will be uniform throughout the state. They meant they want a uniform lack of gun laws.
However, local laws are important. A 2007 report in the journal Justice Research and Policy -- by Stephen Haas and Erica Turley, of the West Virginia Statistical Analysis Center, plus other experts -- found that counties with high concentrations of both legal and illegal guns have higher rates of violent crime, gun crime and even knife crime. Higher, not lower.