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Governor signs bill permitting guns in rec centers

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law a contentious bill that changes the way municipalities can restrict firearms Tuesday evening.

For most cities in the state, Senate Bill 317 will generally expand their right to regulate firearms by eliminating a 1999 law that made city gun ordinances illegal except for those in effect at the time.

But for Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar, the law will place some restrictions on how those cities currently restrict the carrying of firearms.

The most controversial portion forces cities to allow concealed carry firearms in municipal recreation centers. Mayors in Charleston, South Charleston and Dunbar — all of which have grandfathered laws banning guns in their recreation centers — have all expressed concern over the effects that language will have.

Tomblin said in a statement that he signed the bill to support “2nd Amendment rights” and the “need for uniform and consistent gun laws throughout the state.”

“I understand the concern of those who have voiced opinions about challenges within the bill related to municipally-owned recreational centers,” Tomblin said. “I will continue to work with local and state officials to address those concerns.”

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones — one of the most vocal opponents of the bill — said in a statement he “regret(s)” the governor signed it. He also said the city will likely move forward with court action to stop the recreation center provision of the bill.

“We expect to proceed to Kanawha County Circuit Court to find out whether these recreation centers are, in fact, part of the Kanawha County School System,” Jones said in the statement. “If we prevail, that would make carrying guns on the property a felony. If we do not prevail, we hope there will be no trouble at the recreation centers. If there are either shootings or shootouts, we hope none of the innocent children that take part in the programs there are hit with any stray rounds of ammunition…”

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