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James W. Pennington: Tell both sides of Charleston gun law story


James W. Pennington

Having just read the Daily Mail’s March 18 article regarding the City of Charleston rescinding its gun ordinances, there are some statements that cannot go unchallenged.

First, to regularly repeat the mantra that has been used by the mayor and your newspaper that drug dealers were coming to Charleston selling their drugs and buying guns out of the trunks of cars along Charleston streets is irresponsible.

To use the quote that ordinances passed by city council in 1993 has, “Since that time, city officials have maintained that the gun sales law has eliminated the ‘drugs-for-guns’ trade in the city,” is questionable. To my knowledge, neither the Charleston Daily mail, Charleston Gazette, Charleston Police Department nor the mayor has produced one photograph or video documenting this claim.

Secondly, Charleston City Council, at the insistence of Mayor Jones, has rescinded its gun ordinances as a bargaining chip to convince the governor to veto SB 317.

In reality, following the 2013 legislative session, under the home rule law, the city was mandated to rescind its gun ordinances. Not only did the mayor refuse, he thumbed his nose at the law.

Then, during the 2014 legislative session, the people spoke through their elected representatives and with a resounding statement by their votes, West Virginia will not have a hodge-podge of ordinances throughout the state that law-abiding citizens could not possibly know or follow.

This begs the question were these municipalities planning on stopping travelers at each city or small-town border and hand out a copy of their respective ordinances?

After 20 years of hodge-podge gun ordinances obviously, there was no plan to do so.

Further, by passing SB 317, the Legislature also mandated that establishing firearms laws in West Virginia rests solely with the state; were it should. It is very amusing that Mayor Jones is using the proverbial stick and carrot approach toward the governor.

In other words, if you do not veto SB 317, we will sue the state. The mayor needs to understand that is an empty threat because he has nothing to bargain with and his stick and carrot or olive branch approaches are academic. Under SB 317, Charleston rescinding its gun ordinance is moot.

Third, the West Virginia media, which includes both Charleston newspapers, state television stations and the State Journal, provide Mayor Jones and at times, Councilman Thomas Lane, a platform to rail against SB 317, complete with props used by the mayor and an anecdotal and ridiculous article by Councilman Lane suggesting that city lifeguards be taught how to shoot.

It is evident that the media raises its collective hackles at the mere suggestion that its First Amendment rights may be somehow threatened yet, it is somehow acceptable to trample on citizens’ Second Amendment rights, while protecting the First Amendment?

Last, no matter which side one is on regarding this gun ordinance debate, it is very discouraging that the state media, including your newspaper, does not offer an opportunity to voice the other side of this issue.

The majority of people that read your newspaper and utilize other forms of the media do so to be well-informed, however, it is difficult to be well-informed when one side of an issue is given carte blanche to repeatedly espouse their position while the other side is not afforded the same opportunity or is completely ignored.

It is suggested that in an effort to correct this omission, the West Virginia Citizens Defense League be invited to present the other side of this issue and as has been the case with Mayor Jones, on the front page.

Pennington is president of Brassmasters, an NRA, Civilian Marksmanship Program and West Virginia State Rifle & Pistol Association affiliated club.

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