West Virginia delegates and senators alike have introduced bills aimed at limiting the impact of any extra federal gun control measures.
Advocates for stricter gun laws have cried out for more control following the December killing of 26 children and adults in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Within weeks of the tragedy President Barack Obama pledged to advocate for limits on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines (the piece of equipment that feeds rounds into a gun).
The NRA has been the most vocal organization opposing any measure, but many others have challenged the president's call for gun control. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has gone back and forth on the issue but has most recently said he would not support an assault weapons ban.
Locally, measures in the House and Senate both aim to not only mitigate the impact of any potential federal gun laws but the make the enforcement of those laws a crime.
Delegate Justin Marcum, D-Mingo, introduced House Bill 2504 with the support of eight other Democrat sponsors and two Republican sponsors. The bill states any federal law that bans semi-automatic guns or high-capacity magazines would be unenforceable within West Virginia.
"I have a huge constituent base in southern West Virginia that has emailed me and contacted me regarding protecting their firearms and the rights of law abiding firearms under the second amendment," Marcum said Friday in a phone interview.
The measure states no public employees can enforce "any act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government" concerning firearms, related equipment or ammunition that is made or owned in West Virginia and remains exclusively within its borders.
If an employee does enforce any law that falls under this definition, that person could face a $5,000 and spend up to 5 years in prison.
Marcum, an attorney, agreed that one could argue the Second Amendment falls within the parameters of the bill's definition of federal law. That's not the intent of the bill though, he said. Because the Second Amendment, and no other part of the Constitution, mentions the government's right to prohibit certain guns, it's up to each state to decide, he argues.
"It's a state's rights issue. So we determined we can protect our citizens' Second Amendment rights by using the 10th amendment," Marcum said.
Sen. Dave Spyolt, R-Preston, introduced a measure in the Senate that also makes the state's rights argument. Spyolt's bill wants to name the new law the "West Virginia Firearms Freedom Act."
Both bills have been referred to their chamber's respective judiciary committees.