It’s no secret: Our right to defend ourselves is in danger in ways it has not been in a long, long time!

With Tuesday’s inauguration of President Barack Obama and 1994 Assault Weapon Ban author Vice President Joe Biden, any and every gun control proposal you can imagine now has the best friends it could ever hope in the White House.

How are we to respond?

The best defense is a good offense. Now, more than ever, we must not only prepare to oppose and defeat bad bills—we must work harder than ever to advance good bills that restore and expand our rights.

Here in West Virginia, we have an amazing opportunity to stay on offense and show fellow gun owners across the country that the beginning of the Obama Administration does not have to mean the beginning of the end of our gun rights.

Monday, March 2, 2009, is WVCDL’s first-ever Lobby Day at the West Virginia Legislature. Now is the time to clear your calendars and take one day out of your year to let YOUR legislators know, loud and clear, in person, at the State Capitol, while our Legislature is in session, that we take as seriously as ever our right to defend ourselves and are watching closely what they do.

Pending feedback from some of our Eastern Panhandle members—who live closer to the capitals of 5 other states than to our own—the tentative start time of Lobby Day events is 10 AM at the State Capitol. We will provide confirmation and further details in future WVCDL-ALERT updates as Lobby Day nears.

OUR AGENDA

WVCDL has prepared an exciting agenda of pro-gun legislation for the 2009 legislative session. Although no bills will be introduced until after the Legislature convenes February 11, 2009, we have made the current drafts of most of the bills we will promote during the 2009 legislative session available for you to read now at http://www.wvcdl.org/WVCDLbills/

Last year, we surveyed all candidates running for the Legislature. 40 of the 100 members of the House of Delegates and 6 of the 17 state senators whose seats were elected in 2008 participated in our candidate survey, which is available online at 2008 WVCDL Legislative Candidate Survey

We polled many of the issues represented in our 2009 legislative agenda and will be able to secure sponsors for every bill we are proposing. Equally important, most of the issues we polled enjoy broad-based support among participating legislators. In the House of Delegates:

· All 40 delegates who participated in the WVCDL legislative candidate survey support our proposal to provide, as do Kentucky and nearly a dozen other states, for the unilateral recognition of all other states’ licenses to carry concealed weapons without imposing a variety of restrictions that currently prohibit us from expanding reciprocity to any additional states. We have been cautioned by some of our allies in the Legislature that we will encounter stiff resistance to eliminating the provision of the current reciprocity law that requires a state to have a centralized license verification database, which only about half of all license-issuing states have. West Virginia is one of only three states whose reciprocity law contains this type of restriction. If West Virginia law did not contain this restriction, New Hampshire, Delaware, Georgia, Alabama, Colorado, and North Dakota would establish reciprocity with us today; similarly, Idaho and Indiana already recognize our licenses but their licensees cannot carry in West Virginia. The threat of crime does not end at the state line, and neither should our ability to legally provide for our self-defense.

· All 40 participating delegates support our proposal to revise firearm regulations under the Natural Resources Code (Chapter 20 of the West Virginia Code) that have long created significant confusion in both the gun owner and law-enforcement communities concerning when and how a person may carry a handgun when engaged in a variety of activities regulated under the Natural Resources Code. In 2002, the Legislature enacted W.Va. Code § 20-2-6a, which overrides many of these regulations for individuals who have a concealed handgun license and are lawfully carrying a concealed handgun.

· 37 of the 40 participating delegates support our preemption reform bill that will repeal the grandfather clause in the municipal gun control preemption statute and expand the scope of the preemption law to include state agencies—including state colleges and universities. City parks, state and local government office buildings, and state college and university campuses may often be gun-free zones, but they are not crime-free zones (as we were reminded again last night—see below).

· 36 of the 40 participating delegates support our proposal to exempt concealed carry in a motor vehicle from the requirement of a license to carry a concealed weapon so a person has the same access to the means of self-defense in a vehicle as in the home. In addition to Alaska and Vermont, which do not require a license to carry a weapon either openly or concealed, at least 14 states (including Kentucky) allow some form of concealed carry in a vehicle without a license.

· 34 of the 40 participating delegates support our proposal to repeal the ban on carrying at the State Capitol—where the main building has literally dozens of freely-accessible public entrances, no metal detectors except at the entrance to the Supreme Court of Appeals courtroom when the court is in session, and minimal security measures.

· 33 of the 40 participating delegates support our proposal to duplicate a Pennsylvania law requiring all courthouses (where carrying is prohibited by state law) to provide secure weapon storage at public entrances rather than require law-abiding gun owners to leave our guns stored in unattended vehicles.

· 29 of the 40 participating delegates support our proposal to completely exempt individuals licensed to carry concealed weapons from the prohibition on weapons on school property. The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act and state laws in several states—ranging from pro-gun states like Alabama, Oregon, and Utah to gun control havens California and Delaware (home of Sarah Brady and Vice President Biden)—do not prohibit individuals who have licenses to carry concealed weapons from carrying in schools. We adults who have gone through the required training, passed the required background checks, and fulfilled other legal requirements to get licenses to carry concealed weapons have historically proven ourselves to be one of the most law-abiding segments of society. That does not change at a school property line, as other states have demonstrated.

ACTION ITEMS

For us to have a successful Lobby Day, we need your help, beginning today.

1. Clear your calendar for Monday, March 2. The most important thing you can do to make WVCDL Lobby Day a success is to BE THERE!

2. To help us make proper plans, we would appreciate having a good estimate of the number of participants. Please e-mail me and let me know, including yourself, how many people you plan to bring to Lobby Day. Also take advantage of our WVCDL Forums (West Virginia Citizens Defense League • Index page) to discuss your plans. Some of our Eastern Panhandle members have discussed carpooling to Charleston (West Virginia Citizens Defense League • View topic - WVCDL Lobby Day March 2 - Car Pool from Eastern Panhandle) to make the 5-hour trip (each way) less burdensome.

3. Know who your senators and delegate(s) are.

a. Everyone in Kanawha County has 4 state senators (Senate Districts 8 & 17 overlap); everyone else has 2 state senators. Depending on your district, you have between 1 and 7 delegates. If you are registered to vote, you can determine the Senate & House districts in which you live by going to WV Votes and entering your information.

b. When you know your Senate & House districts, you may go to the Legislature’s web site (West Virginia Legislature) and search for your senators and delegate(s) based on your Senate & House district numbers. In some cases, you may also enter your ZIP codes, but there are many ZIP codes that are split between multiple legislative districts in which the Legislature’s web site’s “Find Your Legislators” tool may be ineffective.

4. Determine whether your legislators responded to WVCDL’s 2008 legislative candidate survey (2008 WVCDL Legislative Candidate Survey) and, if so, how they responded. Please note that only the one-half of the state Senate elected has been polled by WVCDL.

5. If your legislators hold town hall meetings before the legislative session, attend those meetings and let your legislators know that you are a gun owner and pay close attention to what they do (or don’t do) on gun-related issues. Thank those legislators who responded to the WVCDL candidate survey and let them know you appreciate the pro-gun positions they have taken and expect them to vote accordingly. If your legislator is on the fence (“NR”) about a particular issue, let him or her know you support that issue and hope he or she will do the same. Although the chart format we used to post responses online does not permit us to share some legislators’ comments or questions about particular issues, many of the NR responses to certain issues came with attached comments or questions that indicated the respondents were open to our proposals.

6. When the Legislature reconvenes February 11, we will be sending regular legislative updates and ask you to write and call your legislators in support of pro-gun bills. Unless you get the chance to personally meet with your legislators and discuss specific ideas, we ask that you wait to contact them about legislation until the bills have been introduced and have specific bill numbers you can cite.

FINALLY, A SAD REMINDER OF THE TASK WE FACE

Those of us who have chosen to take the initiative to protect ourselves and our families understand the threat we face from the criminal element. Despite even the best efforts, the police cannot—and, with the exception of prisoners in custody, have no legal duty to—protect us as individuals from the commission of any crime.

One of our top priorities for 2009 is the enactment of a stronger state preemption law that will void grandfathered ordinances in Charleston, Dunbar, and South Charleston; give us a stronger position to prevail in our ongoing dispute with Martinsburg over its city building gun ban ordinance; and preempt state agency (including state institutions of higher education) rules and actions restricting our right to self-defense. Last night, our friends in Virginia suffered another senseless murder on the campus of Virginia Tech that was aided by Virginia Tech’s administrative policy denying faculty staff, and students the ability to provide for their self-defense on campus. Like Virginia, West Virginia law does not prohibit carrying on a college or university campus; however, neither state covers state agencies (as opposed to local governments) under our respective preemption laws and state agencies can continue to create their own criminal protection zones. WVCDL’s preemption reform bill will change that—with your help.

Jim Mullins
President, West Virginia Citizens Defense League, Inc.
Chairman, WVCDL-PAC
[email protected]
West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL)
WVCDL-PAC