Mayor Andy McKenzie believes proposed legislation aimed at ensuring statewide uniformity of gun regulations could open the door for people to carry loaded firearms into the City-County Building in downtown Wheeling - an idea he said troubles him, even as a gun-rights supporter.
State code forbids individuals from carrying firearms into county courthouses, but a proposed measure - House Bill 4200 - would create exceptions to that law and allow individuals with concealed carry permits to enter buildings that lack "adequate security measures."
Only state or municipal buildings that provide those security measures at public entrances would be permitted to restrict the carrying of weapons inside.
The governing body in control of a building could also submit an explanation of its security plan for the building to the state and request an exemption.
Visitors to Wheeling's City-County Building must pass through a metal detector and have their belongings X-rayed for dangerous items at the main entrance. But under HB 4200, provisions for secure storage of weapons at public entrances to government buildings would be a condition of meeting the "adequate security" requirement - and the City-County Building's security personnel are not authorized to hold prohibited items.
Other proposed legislation - Senate Bill 317 and House Bills 2760 and 4288 - would give complete control over firearm regulation to the Legislature.
"I think it is a huge concern. ... Any person would be able to bring a loaded gun into this building," McKenzie said during Tuesday's City Council meeting.
McKenzie stressed he is a big supporter of gun rights, but he believes there are valid reasons for keeping firearms out of government buildings.
City officials recently returned from the West Virginia Municipal League's annual conference in Charleston. On Monday, representatives of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League gun-rights group were in the capital for its annual "Lobby Day," and Councilman David Miller said he was surprised by the number of people pushing for the right to carry guns into government buildings.
"There were literally hundreds of people there lobbying for this," Miller said.
SB 317 has 18 co-sponsors - representing a majority of the Senate's 34 members, including Senate President Jeff Kessler, D-Marshall, and Sens. Rocky Fitzsimmons, D-Ohio, Jack Yost-D-Brooke and Larry Edgell, D-Wetzel. HB 4200's 11 co-sponsors include Delegates Ryan Ferns and Erikka Storch, both R-Ohio, David Evans, R-Marshall and William Roger Romine, R-Tyler.
No local delegates are listed as co-sponsors of HB 2760 or HB 4288.
In other business, City Council unanimously rejected the proposed removal of stop signs at three intersections on Richland Avenue in the Warwood neighborhood. The city Traffic Commission had recommended the measure after completing a traffic study, prompted by a resident's complaint that the amount of stop signs on the street is excessive.