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Debate Continues Over Gun Law

Reported: Mar. 10, 2014 10:12 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 10, 2014 10:39 PM EDT
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Charleston, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) Before the legislative session ended this weekend, state lawmakers approved Senate Bill 317, which clears the way for all gun laws in the state to be the same.

Gun rights activists pushed for its passage, and say it's important for all cities and counties to be on the same page when it comes to firearm regulations. Some city leaders have expressed concern that by eliminating their authority to regulate where guns are allowed, public safety is at risk. That's because part of the law allows permit-carrying gun owners to bring their weapons into community centers.

Tim Lillard picks up his eight-year-old daughter Angel everyday from the after-school program at Roosevelt Community Center on Charleston's east end. He can't understand why lawmakers would think it's okay to start allowing people to legally bring guns into places like it, where his daughter and dozens of other kids spend a lot of time..

"It's scary. You have enough craziness in the world today, and to know out here with all the kids in education after school that someone can actually walk in carrying a weapon. That's ridiculous," Lillard said.

Charleston's mayor agrees.

"It mystifies me that it's a felony to have a gun locked in your trunk on a city school parking lot, but it's okay to take one into a rec center," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said.

Gun rights supporters insist the law probably doesn't change things much. Like it or not, 80,000 West Virginians have concealed carry permit, so we're around weapons more than we realize. They're probably being brought into community buildings already. Gun owners argue the law just gives them the legal right to do it, and the ability to intervene should something bad happen.

"If you know a heinous violent act is underway that I have the ability and capability to defend myself and others from such an attack," said Keith Morgan, president of the West Virginia Citizen's Defense League.

Morgan also insists gun owners value their weapons and wouldn't leave them just lying around for kids to get a hold of. But that's little comfort to parents like Tim Lillard, who say if this law is enacted, they'll be watching their kids even closer.

Of course the bill still needs Governor Tomblin's signature to become law, and there's certainly the possibility he could veto the measure. Whatever the governor decides to do, might not happen for a while since lawmakers crammed through dozens of bills in the final hours of the legislative session Saturday, which are all now awaiting Tomblin's final decision



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