Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Gun Rights Lawsuits Filed In West Virginia

The West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL) filed two lawsuits in Federal court on Monday challenging restrictions on firearms in four West Virginia cities.

The first lawsuit, WVCDL et al v. City of Charleston et al, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. This lawsuit challenges the ban on carrying firearms on city-owned property in the cities of Charleston, South Charleston, and Dunbar. It also challenges the City of Charleston's 3-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun alown with the city's one handgun per month rationing scheme. Named in the lawsuit are the cities along with their respective mayors and chiefs of police.

The second lawsuit, WVCDL v. City of Martinsburg et al, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.This suit challenges a City of Martinsburg ordinance prohibiting the carrying of firearms in city-owned buildings. Named in the suit are the City of Martinsburg, its mayor, city manager, and chief of police.

The WVCDL's attorney, Jim Mullins of Beckley, has this to say about the lawsuits to the Charleston Gazette:
"No criminal or deranged lunatic is going to be deterred from committing a crime on public property by the prospect of a whopping 30 extra days in jail for violating a municipal ordinance prohibiting guns on city property," Mullins, a Beckley attorney, said in a prepared statement.

"Neither will a criminal wait while his intended victim goes through the three-day waiting period Charleston imposes on buying a handgun," he said. "And if you happened to have bought a handgun recently and it was stolen? Well, that same criminal also won't wait for you to become eligible to purchase another handgun under Charleston's one handgun per month rationing ordinance."

The mayor of South Charleston, Frank Mullens, said his city attorneys would examine the ordinance and Federal law and implied they would change them if needed. Mayor Danny Jones of Charleston was more defiant about his city's ordinances:
"If it's illegal for us to do it [ban guns on city property], then it's illegal for the state Capitol to do it, it's illegal for the county courts and it's illegal for the federal courts to do it," Jones said. "I think we should be able to restrict firearms on our own property."
He went on to add that he didn't feel his city's handgun purchase restrictions were unreasonable saying people can still buy guns.

According to the Charleston Gazette, the restrictions in Charleston, passed in 1993, were a reaction to the drug trade in the city during the 1980s and 1990s. An unintended consequence of the strict gun laws and bans in New York City and other large cities was that a flood of drugs were introduced to West Virginia by drug dealers from those cities seeking guns. Drugs were traded for guns or sold for cash to buy guns through straw purchases.

The complaint against Charleston, South Charleston, and Dunbar can be found here while the complaint against Martinsburg is found here.

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