The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

March 27, 2013

Threat to Senate leader could shoot down gun bill

CHARLESTON — An anonymous threat against a Senate leader possibly has taken the powder out of a Second Amendment proposal to erase gun restrictions in four West Virginia cities.

Senate President Jeffrey Kessler, D-Marshall, stopped just short of declaring HB2760 dead Tuesday, but clearly was irritated by the threat against the chairman of the government organization committee.

“I would say its prospects are not very good,” Kessler said after a floor session.

The idea is to remove a grandfather clause from a law that forbids cities from enacting gun limitations, meaning existing ones would be erased in Charleston. South Charleston, Nitro and Martinsburg.

Yet, the threat could sway a decision on moving the bill, Kessler acknowledged, telling reporters, “That’s one rationale.”

More than a week ago, Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, told The Register-Herald and The Dominion Post in Morgantown that he has received a threat against his life since the bill had been idle in his committee.

A caller warned that he wouldn’t get out of Charleston if the bill died in his committee.

“I’ve communicated quite clearly that is not the type of behavior that will get anything done around here,” Kessler said.

“There’s one way to get through the process and there’s a wrong way. If you threaten to do bodily harm and think that’s going to, in any way, shape or form, move legislation around here, you’re crazy. It’s not happening. Not on my watch. Not ever.”

Kessler’s record as a staunch Second Amendment defender is well documented, including such landmark laws as the Bloomberg, that prevents the use of entrapment against gun dealers, and the Castle Doctrine, allowing homeowners to use deadly force to protect hearth and home.

But lodging a threat against a senator is “going way out of line,” the Senate president said.

If gun advocates feel so passionately about the four cities with such firearms limitations, all they need do is to work against them at the municipal level, and one way to accomplish this is to win public office on a city council, Kessler said.

Kessler found it ironic that some forces find it so distasteful that the federal government’s attempt to force its will on coal production through the Environmental Protection Agency, yet get riled over a city attempting to govern itself.

“That sort of conflicts with what we do in many instances here, the positions we take, let the states enjoy states’ rights and sometimes municipalities enjoy their rights,” the Senate president said.

Kessler said he hasn’t checked his e-mails lately for any similar threats, and the only kind he is aware of is one vowing to retaliate against him in the next election.

“That’s all fine and dandy,” he said.

Snyder has taken the appropriate action by reporting the anonymous threat to Capitol police and security, Kessler said, but he hasn’t given the senator any direct advice, although the matter was discussed with him and Judiciary Chairman Corey Palumbo, D-Kanawha.

“I have been an extreme and vocal advocate with a proud record of defending Second Amendment rights and will continue to do so,” Kessler said.

“But every Second Amendment bill that comes down the pike doesn’t get passed.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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