The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

April 10, 2013

Senate passes bill to protect gun owners’ rights

CHARLESTON — No matter what bizarre twists nature may take, if a state of emergency is imposed, West Virginians needn’t fear Big Brother coming along and grabbing their firearms and ammo.

No one’s Second Amendment rights have been compromised in West Virginia after natural disasters.

But the Legislature wants to make sure nothing on the scale that occurred in New Orleans in the wake of Katrina ever happens in a state that boasts “Mountaineers Are Always Free.”

Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, acknowledged after the 34-0 approval of HB2471 that the Katrina debacle was the inspiration.

In the wake of the disastrous hurricane in Louisiana, the police commissioner in New Orleans began seizing privately-owned firearms, announcing, “No one will be able to be armed.”

Guns were confiscated without warrants, and often with excessive force, prompting a loud protest by the National Rifle Association, citing the constitutional guarantee to own and bear firearms.

“I’m sure it’s in relation to that,” Kessler said of the House bill. “I think that’s the genesis of the bill.”

West Virginia survived two major weather issues last year — the June derecho that put most of the state in the dark, and an October blizzard that buried a sizable geographic area in snow.

Yet, in neither did police confiscate any firearms.

“This just solidifies and strengthens the existing Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Kessler said.

“Law-abiding citizens will not have to forfeit firearms in a state of emergency. This is just to make sure we have appropriate buffers. Sometimes we pass legislation as a buffer legislation, if nothing else.”

Among other bills the Senate passed is one that lets a family court judge order children to be taken over by Child Protective Services if he fears imminent abuse or neglect.

Another measure, HB2463, erases an existing law that allows for the sterilization of anyone adjudged to be mentally incompetent.

Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha, said HB2521 creates an alternative process from the existing drug forfeiture procedures.

The idea is to expedite voluntary relinquishment of money used in or acquired in drug trafficking.

Once a prosecutor issues a written notice of intent, a person could agree or not respond, and the forfeiture would occur, he pointed out.

If the order is challenged, the normal process would prevail.

Senators also unanimously approved HB2729 to allow the voluntary use of epinephrine auto-injectors in emergencies when anaphylactic shock is threatened.

Health and Human Resources Chairman Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said school nurses and trained personnel would be allowed to use the devices.

Parents must be notified once the injectors are used, and nurses and other school employees who use them are granted immunity from lawsuits, except in cases of gross negligence or willful misconduct, Stollings added.

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