CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Council President Tom Lane would rather see the city continue to participate in the home rule program than keep its local gun ordinance if he were presented with a choice.
Lane, an at-large Republican, was the champion of the city gun ordinance passed in the early 1990s. The gun ordinance restricts people from buying more than one handgun per month inside the city. It also requires a three-day waiting period for a handgun purchase and a background check. Council passed the ordinance to curb crime in the early 1990s that was associated with drug dealers coming in from larger cities to purchase guns at a reduced rate in Charleston.
These guns were then taken back to the criminals' hometowns and sold at a significantly higher rate, Lane said. The dealers would also sell drugs in Charleston at a higher price than could be obtained in their native cities, Lane said.
"Although it pains me to say it, I think we'd have to take home rule if faced with that choice," Lane said. "The benefits of home rule outweigh the gun ordinance."
Home rule gives cities more power when it comes to taxation, regulations and governing procedures.
Charleston is one of four home rule cities in the state, including Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport. All four cities were part of a pilot program that expires on June 30.
A bill extending and expanding home rule has passed the state Senate. However, the House of Delegates amended the bill on Wednesday.
The change means cities that would like to join the pilot program or continue participating in it can only do so if they eliminate any local gun laws. There is an exception for local laws restricting guns in municipal buildings.
Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha, proposed the change. Originally he planned to include all of the parameters of a bill the House passed earlier in the session that voided all city gun ordinances.
Tom Lane, who is not related to Patrick Lane, is a registered lobbyist for Charleston law firm Goodwin and Goodwin. He is also chairman of the city's Home Rule Committee.
The House approved the amendment by voice vote. Delegate Danny Wells, D-Kanawha, was among a vocal minority who opposed the change.
He also opposed House Bill 2760, the bill calling for uniform gun laws that eliminated city measures.
Mayor Danny Jones vehemently opposed the House bill. He has also been a strong supporter of the state's home rule program.
Jones would not comment on the proposed amendment during a city committee meeting on Wednesday.
The city's Municipal Home Rule Committee met Wednesday to discuss a proposed amendment to Charleston's home rule plan.
Jones has proposed the city enact a half-cent sales tax while reducing and eliminating business and occupation taxes.
The proposal would net about $3.5 million annually. That money would be used to pay for millions of dollars worth of renovations to the Civic Center.
The proposal includes a reduction in the B&O tax on retail from .5 percent to .35 percent. It would also eliminate the city's B&O tax on manufacturing in the city.