CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Supporters of a bill to strike down city and county gun ordinances are staging picket protests and flooding lawmakers' offices with calls and emails.
But the deluge is doing little to sway the committee chairmen who hold the legislation's fate in their hands.
Members of the House of Delegates passed HB 2760 with a 94-4 vote earlier this month. The bill seeks to repeal a grandfather clause put in place in 1999 that allowed four West Virginia cities — Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar and Martinsburg — to continue to enforce their own gun ordinances.
Proponents of the bill, including the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, said repealing the exemption provision would ensure that people could purchase and carry guns anywhere in the state without worrying about more restrictive local ordinances.
The bill has sat idle since it reached the Senate, where Senate President Jeff Kessler referred it to two committees — Government Organization and Judiciary.
Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, has not staked out a defined position on the bill but said he would not consider it until after "crossover day," April 3, when all bills must be out of their houses of origin.
"I've got 165 Senate bills in committee," he said Monday.
Snyder said about a dozen of those messages were "threatening" and have been turned over to law enforcement. He said his children have received nasty messages on their Facebook accounts.
"This is just plain ugly," he said. "This is the nastiest thing I've seen in 22 years of public service."
The group recently set its sights on Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo as well.
Palumbo, D-Kanawha, will inherit HB 2760 if it survives Snyder's committee.
The Citizens Defense League on Saturday staged a rally near the Governor's Mansion urging Palumbo to take action on the bill.
Protesters waved signs with slogans like "Sen. Palumbo: We hired you, we can fire you," "Palumbo supports petty tyrants" and "Palumbo wants you defenseless."
A member of the group then created a video with footage and photos from the event, cut with audio snippets from former National Rifle Association President Charlton Heston and a rock song called "Stand Up (2nd Amendment Style)."
Palumbo, who has an "A" rating from the National Rifle Association, said he opposes the bill not because it would loosen gun restrictions in the state but because it would take away the city of Charleston's ability to restrict handgun sales.
Charleston's gun ordinance limits handgun sales to one per person per month and requires a 72-hour waiting period following each handgun purchase. The city ordinance does not apply to rifles or other firearms.