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House passes bill to block local gun laws

Mar. 12, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- Legislation forbidding any municipal government in West Virginia to approve an ordinance setting up its own laws on the purchase or possession of firearms attracted a lengthy debate but only four negative votes in the House of Delegates on Monday.

Delegate Rupie Phillips Jr., D-Logan, is the lead sponsor of the bill and he didn't even see a need to stand up and speak in favor of House Bill 2670 after House Judiciary Chairman Tim Miley, D-Harrison, explained the contents and purpose of the legislation.

"Sometimes I think it is better not to speak," he said after the House had adjourned. "I wanted the Legislature to make the decision, and we did."

He also knew he had 10 other sponsors of the bill, including House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton; Finance Committee Chairman Harry Keith White, D-Mingo, and Delegate Miley.

Other co-sponsors are Jeff Eldridge, D-Lincoln; Justin Marcum, D-Mingo; Josh Stowers, D-Lincoln; John O'Neal, R-Raleigh; Ted Tomblin, D-Logan; Bill Hamilton, R-Upshure; and William Hartman, D-Randolph.

"I think it is vital to have a uniform law statewide," Marcum said. "A three-day waiting period (a requirement in the current city ordinance in Charleston) is unfair."

The so-called "pre-emption bill" would bar any city or county in the state from imposing firearms laws. And within 90 days after it becomes law, it would remove any existing city or county laws, such as the one now on the books in Charleston.

Most supporters of the legislation say it is to assure a uniform set of standards for firearms statewide. And some also see it as an affirmation of the 2nd Amendment.

"Some of us have a problem with this bill, " said Nancy Guthrie, D-Kanawha. "Law enforcement didn't ask for this bill. I think we are going down a slippery slope by passing this bill."

But Delegate Mark Hunt, D-Kanawha, said that "Charleston is not going to prevail here today." He urged colleagues to "vote green" in support of the legislation.

The bill now goes to the state Senate where Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, made a floor speech last Friday in support of the movement for a uniform state law on this issue.

He said recent statistics indicate an individual has a "25 percent better chance of getting shot and killed in Washington, D.C., than if you are a soldier stationed in the Iraq-Afghanistan war zone.

"So the conclusion of this is, the U. S. should probably pull out of Washington, D.C.," he quipped.

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