By KATE COIL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The federal debate over gun control could be coming to the West Virginia Legislature.
Delegate Clif Moore, D-McDowell, said he will be hosting three town hall meetings on gun control issues to give citizens a chance to weigh in on the debate. The forums are scheduled for Saturday with the first at Big Creek People in Action in Caretta at 10 a.m., the second at the First United Methodist Church in Welch at 1 p.m., and the third at the Bluewell Volunteer Fire Department at 4 p.m.
Moore said the purpose of the meetings is to get a feel for what local residents want to see on the state level regarding gun control.
“When I go to Charleston I want to engage in the debate, which will come up,” Moore said. “I want to reflect what the people want me to do. The purpose of these forums is to gather meaningful information from my constituents so when the debates ensue and ultimately votes are cast I will be better prepared to articulate the sentiments of the people I represent. I want to be sure that I put aside my personal views and act in a manner consistent with the views of the many fine citizens of my district.”
Moore said he has heard there is some legislation already being worked on at the state level regarding gun control.
“I have heard of some legislation in the work, but I haven’t seen any,” Moore said. “There is some in the House that may be introduced. On the local level, we haven’t had a discussion in a public forum. It is important to know what our people want us to do about this issue.
Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, said he believes any gun control legislation brought up during the upcoming session wouldn’t receive much support.
“If there is any legislation being drafted, I am not aware of it,” Gearheart said. “Of course, nothing is in the system yet and nothing will be until the session starts. I did get some word that Delegate Randy Swartzmiller (D-Hancock) was going to put something out, but I have seen specific denials from him on that. I don’t believe it will come up here simply because if it had some support, there would be very little. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but I do think there are some delegates and senators who might pursue it, but I think overwhelming the leaders and both bodies have no interest on that.”
For now, Gearheart said he believes the gun control debate will remain more of a federal issue.
“Certainly, there are state issues, but I don’t think anyone has any questions where we are on Second Amendment issues here,” Gearheart said. “For the most part, I feel this is a federal issue though there are some things on the state level that can be done. If and when a federal plan were passed, possibly West Virginia might react to it. I cannot imagine there will be any legislation to further limit gun ownership in West Virginia. If it there is some interest, I wouldn’t mind talking with constituents but I haven’t seen anything but a consensus regarding Second Amendment rights. If folks want to do it, it is something I would be willing to participate in.”
Delegate John Shott, R-Mercer, said he is not aware of any legislation on the state level but that public input will be important if any gun control measures are put before the Legislature.
“If there is a bill that is going to address that, yes, I will be soliciting input at some time,” Shott said. “I am not presently aware of any legislation before the state, though I do know there is something on the federal level. This was most likely something discussed during the interim sessions, which will be brought up during the legislative session when it begins in February.”
Delegate Joe Ellington, R-Mercer, said he has heard of a proposed bill that would allow certain administrators to carry concealed weapons in West Virginia schools.
“I haven’t heard anyone attempting to float any gun control measures in the House, but I have heard there is a carry-conceal bill for the schools,” Ellington said. “I think I might get on board with having designated persons carrying guns in the schools after training.”
Ellington said he believes state governments should be allowed to tailor any federal gun legislation to the needs of their individual state.
“The federal government will dictate what they want each state to do and what they want each state to follow, but each state can address that themselves,” he said. “Each state has to do what’s best for them. West Virginia is different than California, for example. I think we need to do what’s best for our state. I don’t think any gun control laws would pass in West Virginia. I definitely believe in the Second Amendment and our Second Amendment rights.”