CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The latest proposed change to the state's Home Rule pilot program gives cities with gun ordinances an ultimatum: keep the laws or keep participating in the program.
"If a municipality wants to participate in the Home Rule project, then they need to do away with any existing gun-related ordinances," said Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanahwa, who proposed the change.
Lane's latest proposed change seems to have spurred the House Rules Committee to move Senate Bill 435 to the active calendar. The committee voted late Tuesday to move the bill to the special calendar, where it stands on the second phase of the full approval process.
It's the stage where delegates can propose changes to the bill, and it's those proposed changes that have significantly affected the measure.
As approved by the Senate, the bill allows more cities to participate in the Home Rule Pilot Program and extends the pilot until 2019. The program has allowed four of West Virginia's largest cities to have more say over regulations, taxes and procedures governing those cities.
The House Government Organizations Committee changed the bill so that participating cities couldn't restrict the right to carry a firearm. Lane's first proposed change went much further, voiding any city gun ordinance.
That change, filed Friday, spurred the House Rules Committee to move the measure off the active calendar as to prevent it from coming before the full House.
"I think that the amendment that I proposed last week, to be honest with you, had plenty of support," Lane said. "The last head count that I got was that it was going to pass by probably an 80 to 20 margin."
Lane filed the latest change Tuesday. He said he is withdrawing the first change and promoting this change to address the concerns fellow delegates have shared.
The changes still mirror House Bill 2760, a bill that would have stripped cities of all gun laws. The House voted 94 to 4 in favor of the bill, so Lane thinks the latest measure should have plenty of support.
"The authority of a political subdivision to regulate firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories may not be inferred from its proprietary authority, Home Rule status or any other inherent or general power," according to Lane's proposed change.
State code already prohibits cities or counties from having additional gun laws. However, the measure allowed exemptions for cities that already had such laws on the books at the time.
Charleston already had laws that prohibited the purchase of more than one handgun per month and required a 72-hour waiting period on any handgun purchase.
The Senate did not act on House Bill 2760. After some senators received threatening messages urging support of the bill, Senate President Jeff Kessler said his chamber would not take action on the measure.
Lane said he had heard anecdotally that the Senate would not support the amendment he originally proposed. But he doesn't think any proposed change threatens the Home Rule pilot.
"I don't subscribe to the idea that any person submitting an amendment to any bill whatsoever can kill a bill," Lane said.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has continually voiced his disdain for the House's gun bill. He said the city's laws make Charleston a safer place.
West Virginia Municipal League President Lisa Dooley opposed Lane's original change proposed to the bill. She told The Associated Press on Monday gun control and Home Rule don't belong in the same piece of legislation.
It is anticipated Lane's latest change has bipartisan support, as the Democrat-ruled House helped vote to move the bill to the active calendar. Delegate Kelli Sobonya, R-Cabell, also has several proposed amendments concerning the pilot program.
If the House advances the bill today, it would be slated for final approval Thursday.
Because the Senate created the measure, it is allowed to review any changes made by the House. If it does not agree with those changes, the measure goes before a conference committee of the two chambers for further review.