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Emotions should not color the gun debate

Not too long ago, drug dealers from Detroit and other urban areas were doing a dandy business in Charleston. They sold illegal drugs here and used some of the money to buy guns through surrogates for resale at higher prices back home.

In response, Charleston in 1993 enacted an ordinance that restricted handgun purchases to one every 30 days and then only after a 72-hour waiting period.

The Legislature later banned cities from enacting such restrictions but allowed Charleston and three other cities to keep their local ordinances.

Now in the wake of attempts at the federal level to restrict gun ownership, state legislators are rallying around the Second Amendment and have introduced more than 30 bills dealing with gun rights.

Among those proposals was one that would override the four city gun ordinances. It is difficult to grasp the constitutional question that some supporters of this repeal raise.

The city is not limiting gun ownership, but merely slowing the purchasing process. A resident can own as many guns as he wants; when it comes to handguns, he just has to purchase them one at a time.

Charleston city officials cite legitimate, crime-related reasons for their ordinance. And no restrictions are placed on rifles, which account for a small percentage of gun-related homicides.

On a 94-4 vote, the House passed the bill repealing the grandfather clause in the ban on local gun ordinances and sent it to the state Senate. That is when the debate turned ugly.  

Some supporters of the legislation reportedly made threats to senators, particularly the heads of the two committees to which the bill was assigned: Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson and Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

Snyder called the threats the nastiest experience of his 22 years in public service.

Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, took a strong stand this week in stating that such threats were part of the reason for his leadership team stalling the bill. "Not on my watch, not ever," he said of the threats, which he called way out of line and overzealous.

He made it clear that the Senate would not be pressured that way.  

West Virginians have the right to own guns for sport, for hunting and yes, self-defense.

But that right does not have to extend to gunrunners. Charleston city officials believe they have addressed their problem, and until state lawmakers come up with a better plan, they ought to let the Charleston law stand.



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