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This week from Charleston

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

As predicted, the Governor called us in to special session and the fracking waste bill and the haircut bill were both considered again. Both bills have been made better for the Eastern Panhandle, but both are still bad. Ultimately, despite the negotiations and work to make the bills better by the Eastern Panhandle delegation, I voted against both bills in special session.

Another controversial bill was SB 317, which changes the law on how municipalities deal with firearms being carried on municipal property. The new standards would allow a municipality to prohibit the carrying of a gun into any municipal building where the city conducts business. For example, a gun could be prohibited in the city meeting rooms or offices. The legislation allows guns to be left locked and out of view in a car in municipal parking lots and municipal parking buildings. Cities would be able to limited guns to those with valid conceal and carry permits where the streets have been cordoned off for special municipal events or festivals.

However, the new standards would not allow a municipality to prohibit the carrying of a concealed weapon by a person with a valid conceal and carry permit into a municipally owned recreational facility. This means that every municipality would be required to allow for the carrying of concealed weapons at municipal swimming pools, recreation centers, ice rinks, sports facilities, facilities with after-school programs or other similar facilities where children are present. On the other hand, the legislation would allow a municipality to prohibit the open carrying of firearms in those same recreational locations.

In the House Judiciary Committee, I moved to amend the bill to give municipalities the right to regulate firearms in all municipally owned building as they see fit. I am a big fan of home rule and firmly believe that municipalities are in the best position to determine how their buildings should be used. The amendment failed in committee. As a consequence, I then voted against the bill. Once size fits all legislation from Charleston for municipalities does not make sense. Regardless of how anyone feels about second amendment issues, municipalities are now in the position of having to decide how to deal with buildings that house both city business and recreational activities. It could be the case now that someone could bring a concealed weapon in one door of a building but not another. I don’t think it helps concealed weapon holders or cities, despite the fact that signs must be posted with the policy. This new policy will lead to more confusion.

Privately, many legislators who voted for the bill agreed with me. We need common-sense legislation on municipalities, and we need to remain level-headed with dealing with second amendment rights. When a gun bill makes sense, I vote for it. When it doesn’t, I don’t. This one didn’t make sense.