The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 1, 2012

NRA-backed gun law clears Senate

CHARLESTON — For the second time in this session, the Senate has approved legislation backed by the National Rifle Association.

Approved unanimously, SB149 obligates law enforcement agencies to return seized firearms and ammunition to “innocent owners,” if possible, and if the guns and ammo are not being used as evidence in a court case.

When weapons and ammo cannot be returned, explained Finance Chairman Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, they must be sold at public auction.

The bill, sponsored by Majority Leader John Unger, D-Berkeley, also provides for the disposal of unsafe firearms and the maintenance of records.

Existing law calls for weapons and ammo confiscated by police to be destroyed immediately.

Recently, the Senate also acted on another bill by Unger and advanced by Natural Resources Chairman Bill Laird, D-Fayette, allowing apprentice hunters to temporarily forego the required safety courses if accompanied on hunts by a licensed adult.

The idea is to provide a temporary license similar to the youth hunting licenses, available to resident and non-residents alike.

“Eventually,” the NRA said, “the goal is for these apprentices to complete a hunter education course so they can hunt on their own, which has largely been the case in the states that have similar programs.”

To date, more than 600,000 apprentice licenses have been issued in states that have authorized them.

A bill with overtures of addressing prison overcrowding was given its blessing by the Senate.

One aspect creates a substance recovery program in one or more existing correctional facilities.

Additional good time is allowed to be applied to a sentence for successfully completing programs and meritorious service.

Prezioso said the bill also permits deferred prosecution in certain possession offenders and moves up a discharge by six months with mandatory supervision.

The measure also sets up two pilot projects that require frequent drug screens and immediate sanctions when results are positive, Prezioso explained.

Advocated during the interims by a committee assigned to prisons and regional jails, the bill carries a price tag of $634,000 a year.

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