Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Officials Object to Gun Bill ; Legislation Allowing Guns in Kanawha Parks

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

Officials Object to Gun Bill ; Legislation Allowing Guns in Kanawha Parks

Article excerpt

The sign that prohibits guns in Coonskin Park hasn't been moved to the new entrance off of Henry C. "Hoppy Shores Drive. It's still by the old gate, looking out at the barbed wire fence that separates the park and the National Guard Base.

And a bill is moving through the Legislature to get the park to remove that sign.

"We've known what's coming, Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission director Jeff Hutchinson said. "We've known for a year.

The bill, SB 254, states that County Parks Commissions will be forbidden from prohibiting firearms on their property. It's similar to a bill that failed last session.

"This bill, it's specifically for us, Hutchinson said. "Because we had the right to promulgate rules. That was the loophole.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, who didn't return a call for comment.

In most counties, the county commission is in charge of the parks. Because the parks commission is a separate entity in Kanawha County, under law it was allowed to set its own rules.

Keith Morgan, the president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, thinks of this bill as simply cleaning up the gray areas of the law that already exists prohibiting counties from regulating firearms in parks.

That argument came to a head last year, when Morgan spoke in front of the Kanawha County Commission saying that the commission should override the park commission's rule.

The discussion didn't generate much beyond threats of lawsuits, but the parks commission did vote to stop issuing citations to people who came into the park with guns and instead ask them to leave.

"We went so far as to take away any punishment, Tackett said.

With the law moving through the legislature (it has already passed the Senate and is in the House Judiciary Committee), the parks commission has come out against the bill.

"People have to have a little bit of common sense, Allen Tackett, the director of the parks commission said. "I'm as much of a defender of Second-Amendment rights as anyone in the world, but there's some places where guns don't belong.

Tackett was a former adjutant general in West Virginia and served in the military on special forces units. …

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