West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin, a lifelong champion of gun-lovers, commendably rose above narrow mountain attitudes. His acclaimed national compromise for gun safety may offer the best chance that Democrats and President Obama have to reduce U.S. danger in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre.
Now, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin likewise should show independence and veto the Legislature's home rule abomination that voids Charleston's pistol law. If he, too, can stand bravely against gun pressure, the home rule law could be revised and repassed when lawmakers return in a special session.
Charleston became a national leader when it attempted to curb the loathsome drugs-for-guns trade -- in which out-of-state pushers peddle their dope, use the profits to buy trunkloads of pistols, and take the weapons back home for resale to street gangs. Charleston attacked this practice by clamping limits on pistol purchases.
Conservative legislators who voted overwhelmingly to kill Charleston's law actually are "soft on crime." Chief beneficiaries of their action will be drug-pushers. Also, they endangered families and children, because the law change allows pistol-carrying in local parks, pools and auditoriums.
Home rule means letting cities and counties make their own decisions. By inserting a ban on local gun laws into the state home rule law, Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, contradicted home rule -- preventing cities from making their own decisions.
Sen. Erik Wells, D-Kanawha, said Republicans inserted "wedge issues" to boost their chances in the next election.
Sen. Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said the Legislature told West Virginia cities: "We trust you, municipalities, but we don't trust you very much." Yet Wells and Palumbo eventually voted for the home rule bill.
Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, said conservative lawmakers were "pandering to special interests [meaning the gun lobby] at the expense of our cities."
Lisa Dooley of the state Municipal League summed up: "The whole thing is, we don't want guns around our kids. This doesn't belong in a home rule bill."
Charleston council leader Tom Lane said he will ask the city attorney to weigh possible court challenges against the Legislature's action. Lane said the legislation "encourages people to ... conceal their weapons and bring them into playgrounds and city buildings." He added:
"It was completely inappropriate to tack a gun bill onto a home rule bill measure which is designed to foster economic development. Frankly, I am appalled that members of the House of Delegates, particularly those from Charleston, would forsake public safety over fear of the NRA."
Gov. Tomblin can fix this grotesque mess by vetoing the bill and demanding a rewrite. If he doesn't, Charleston should wage the most intense court resistance it can muster.