CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State lawmakers are again attempting to shoot down municipal gun control laws in Charleston and elsewhere.
Senate Bill 317 and House Bill 4288 both take aim at those laws, but the Senate bill has gained the most traction.
In its current form, it would force municipalities to abandon any ordinances concerning the carrying or selling of guns. Cities could still prohibit the concealed carrying of firearms in "municipal buildings dedicated to government operations" but not anywhere else.
Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar and Martinsburg all have local gun ordinances that are more restrictive than state laws to varying degrees.
The current version of the bill was approved by the Senate Government Organization Committee on Feb. 12 and was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it must be passed before going to the full Senate.
Last year, lawmakers amended the state's Home Rule Pilot Program to include the prohibition of firearms ordinances but allowed current laws to exist until 90 days after a new or current municipality is selected for home rule in 2014. The firearm language was added by Delegate Patrick Lane, R-Kanawha.
Senate Bill 317 nixes the 90-day clause for home rule cities and also removes the grandfather clause for firearm ordinances in non-home rule cities.
Charleston is the only home rule city of the four with gun ordinances, but South Charleston, Dunbar and Martinsburg have all announced their intent to apply for the program when it expands later this year.
Before being changed by the Senate's Government Organization Committee, an earlier version of Senate Bill 317 was much more wide-reaching.
That version not only would have prohibited all municipal gun laws but would also allow out-of-state residents and special interest groups to sue cities with gun laws remaining on their books and allow judges to force cities to pay damages to said groups.
Senate Bill 317 is sponsored by 18 senators. All of them come from mostly rural districts. Just two of them represent a district that covers a city with targeted gun laws — Martinsburg.
None of the sponsoring senators represent Kanawha County.
Senate Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, is the lead sponsor. He did not respond to requests for comment.
House Bill 4288 also deals with municipal gun control laws in generally the same format as the original form of Senate Bill 317 but has yet to be heard by a committee.
Charleston officials have been repeatedly critical of legislative attempts to weaken or remove the city's restrictions.
"The Legislature can do a lot of things," Mayor Danny Jones said. "They can do good things or they can do this."