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Gun rights group wins partial victory in fight over guns in rec centers


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — A West Virginia gun rights advocacy group has won a partial victory in a four-year-old court battle over whether guns can be carried into city-owned recreation centers.

In 2013, the West Virginia Citizens Defense League sued the city of Charleston over a 1993 city ordinance banning guns on city property, including city parks and recreation centers.

However, the state Legislature passed a law in 2014 saying that a law-abiding citizen with a valid concealed weapons permit would be allowed to carry his or her concealed firearms into a city recreation center, so long as the weapon was “securely (stored) out of view.”

Charleston city officials then went back to court, arguing that the city had no way to provide a “secure” place to store a concealed weapon, and saying concealed weapons should remain banned from city recreation centers because they were used for school functions.

It remains illegal under state law to carry a gun, concealed or not, on school property.

After years of wrangling and an intervention in the case filed by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Kanawha Circuit Judge James Stuckey issued a ruling on the case agreeing in part with the Citizens Defense League.

In a 14-page ruling signed Sept. 21, Stuckey said concealed weapons were prohibited in any city-owned recreation center that is leased by a local school board, and where after-school programs or other school activities are held.

However, he said concealed weapons could not be banned from city-owned recreation centers that were not leased by a school board as long as the guns were kept concealed on the gun owner’s person or in a purse or gym bag. Stuckey also ruled that the concealed weapon could be locked in a locker, although he said the city was not obligated to provide lockers or locks.

“This is a major relief to West Virginia’s 150,000 holders of concealed handgun licenses, and reduces the ‘legal minefield’ potentially found in city-owned recreation centers and facilities,” said Keith Morgan, president of the Citizens Defense League.

Morgan noted, however, that the ruling was also a partial victory for Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who was particularly worried about allowing guns into the city’s Martin Luther King Center. That facility is leased by the Kanawha County Board of Education, and will remain a gun-free zone.

Staff writer Rusty Marks can be reached at 304-415-1480 or email at [email protected]

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