W.Va. Senate to kill gun bill
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Senate President Jeff Kessler said Tuesday the Senate will not take up a bill to nullify city gun ordinances, citing threats by supporters of the bill directed at senators.
"After being threatened over a bill, it sends a horrible message if we put the bill out there," Kessler, D-Marshall, said after the Senate's Tuesday floor session.
Senate Government Organization Chairman Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, last week notified Protective Services -- the Capitol complex police -- that he had received threatening phone calls and emails from supporters demanding that he put the bill on the committee's agenda, including one where a caller stated, "If you don't run that bill, you won't make it home from Charleston."
On Saturday, the pro-gun West Virginia Citizens Defense League staged a rally at the Capitol, featuring speakers and pickets attacking both Snyder and Senate Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, for failing to act on the bill.
The bill (HB2760) would have had to pass both the Senate Government Organization and Judiciary committees and advance to the Senate floor by no later than April 10, in order to pass the Legislature by the end of the session, on April 13.
The bill passed the House of Delegates March 11 on a 94-4 vote.
Kessler said he has no objections if advocacy groups want to target opposing senators for defeat in the next election campaign but draws the line at threats of bodily harm.
"This is one instance where I think some of the advocates have gotten very out of hand and overzealous," he said.
Keith Morgan, president of the Citizens Defense League, said of Kessler's decision, "We're coming to his district. That's all the comment I have for the Gazette."
Kessler also questioned whether the Legislature should be passing laws to nullify ordinances passed by city councils.
"If they're as oppressive as they're portrayed to be, the easiest thing to do is elect advocates to the city councils and abolish them," he said of the gun ordinances in effect in Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar and Martinsburg.
He noted that no officials from any of the four cities had supported HB2760.
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, an outspoken opponent of the bill, said Tuesday he was pleased that the Senate had halted consideration of the legislation.
"I admire the courage of Senators Kessler, Snyder and Palumbo and anyone willing to stand up to this crowd," Jones said.
He said the bill not only would have nullified Charleston ordinances restricting handgun purchases, but also any municipal prohibitions on carrying firearms in parks and other public areas.
The mayor said the use of threats against elected officials is intolerable.
"They thought, apparently, that's the way to get this bill passed," Jones said. "It's staggering."
Jones said he doesn't believe the senators need be concerned whether the Citizens Defense League will oppose them in future campaigns.
"I don't think the power of these people is real," he said.
Reach Phil Kabler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1220.