Charleston WV delegate, mayor continue to disagree on gun bill - WBOY.com: Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Charleston WV delegate, mayor continue to disagree on gun bill

Posted: Updated:

Delegate Mark Hunt and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones still aren't seeing eye-to-eye on a recent House of Delegates vote.

The House on Monday passed a bill that would nullify the City of Charleston's gun purchasing ordinance. Hunt, a Democrat who represents part of Charleston, and other delegates who represent the capitol city voted in favor of the legislation, House Bill 2760. But Jones, a Republican, has taken issue with the ordinance, saying that since the ordinance was passed in 1993, violent crime has gone down in the city.

Hunt once again took to the House floor Thursday to clarify some things.

"The first thing I want to say about this bill, 2760, the preemption bill, I still think the house did the right thing," Hunt said Thursday. "Obviously, we preempted the field on gun carry and gun ownership laws and the right thing to do is have uniform gun laws in this state."

Charleston's ordinance allows consumers to purchase only one handgun per month after a three-day waiting period. Other cities, including Martinsburg, have their own ordinances as well. The Legislature in 1999 passed a bill that banned municipalities from enacting their own gun ordinances, but Charleston, Martinsburg and other cities that already had ordinances in place were grandfathered in. House Bill 2760 nullified those ordinances in an effort to make gun purchasing laws across the state more even.

But Jones said such a law is unfair. At a March 12 news conference, Jones said "the Legislature is not familiar with our ordinance" and the bill is "frightening to municipalities."

Some committees in the House, including the Political Subdivisions Committee Hunt chairs, considered legislation similar to HB 2760, but those bills died before reaching the full House. House Bill 2558 would have removed the grandfather clause that exempts municipal ordinances form limiting the purchase, possession, transfer, ownership, carrying, transporting, selling or sorting of guns or ammunition. That bill passed out of Political Subdivisions, but died in Judiciary.

"It was less draconian than the bill this house ultimately passed," Hunt said of HB 2558. "We didn't have an opportunity to vote on that bill in this house. The bill we had the opportunity to vote on was 2760, the bill we did vote on."

During debate Monday, several delegates said they wanted to see statistics that Charleston's violent crime rate did indeed drop after the ordinance was enacted. Hunt brought with him Thursday a chart from the FBI that showed Charleston's crime rates since 1993 have remained higher than the national average.

Hunt pointed out the years 2010 and 2011, specifically. In those years, Charleston's murder/non-negligent manslaughter rates were considerably higher than the national and state averages. In 2010, Charleston's rate was 13.6 compared with 4.8 national rate and 3.3 West Virginia rate. In 2011, Charleston's rate was 9.7 while the national rate was 4.7 and the state rate was 4.3. At the time the ordinance was enacted, Charleston's murder/non-negligent manslaughter rate was 27.9, three times the national rate and nearly five times the state rate.

"A number of people in this house asked for statistics," Hunt said, adding, "We're due statistics, we should get statistics, understand what we're voting on. These are the facts. These are the facts from the FBI."

Hunt said he is tired of the finger pointing and hopes Jones, who once served in the House of Delegates, could understand the process.

"I hope that we can stop pointing fingers and calling people names and understand there is a process here," Hunt said. "There is a process. This House passed a bill by an overwhelming majority. It went over to the Senate. The Senate will do with it what it feels appropriate.

"Whatever happens, I hope that from here on out that the mayor of Charleston and these pundits of the bill will let the process work and not try to obstruct this process."

Jones issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:

"Today, in the House of Delegates, Delegate Mark Hunt took to the floor to give a somewhat disjointed defense of his false allegations on Monday against the ‘Mayor of Charleston and its City Council.'  During the course of this speech today, Delegate Hunt admitted that neither Councilman Lane nor I called the members of House of Delegates ‘idiots.'  Despite this, Delegate Hunt could not muster up the courage to apologize for bearing false witness against members of Charleston's City Council and me.  This is sad.  It would have taken courage that Delegate Hunt obviously lacks.

"Let me say that despite all of this, I have no quarrel with Delegate Hunt.  As a House Committee Chairman, Mark Hunt is an ‘inside man' on Speaker Thompson's leadership team. While I feel compelled to speak out about legislation that adversely affects my city, I realize I am no match for Speaker Thompson, Chairman Hunt or any member of the very powerful House leadership team – certainly not in the House Chamber when the Legislature is in session.

"Finally, being a former member of the House and a spectator of what has gone on there for a number of decades, I know there is perennially a bit of Charleston bashing that goes on. I guess what surprised me about this is that the bashing is now coming from a delegate that represents the capital city."