West Virginia Lawsuit challenges four cities' gun laws

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A pro-gun lobbying group sued Monday to overturn gun-control laws in Charleston, South Charleston, Dunbar and Martinsburg.

The first lawsuit filed by the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, several members and a gun dealer challenges prohibitions against carrying firearms on the cities' property. It also challenges Charleston's limits on the number of handguns a person can buy in a month and prohibitions on selling firearms to people who've been treated for mental illness or charged with crimes.

A second lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg challenges that city's ban on guns in city buildings.

Lawyer James Mullins said the group wants to vindicate people's right to carry firearms.

"No criminal or deranged lunatic is going to be deterred from committing a crime on public property by the prospect of a whopping 30 extra days in jail for violating a municipal ordinance," Mullins said in a statement. "Neither will a criminal wait while his intended victim goes through the 3-day waiting period Charleston imposes on buying a handgun."

Charleston Mayor Danny Jones promised to fight the lawsuit. Jones was named a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the mayors of Dunbar and South Charleston. Neither man had immediate comment.

Jones noted the lawsuit was filed in the Charleston federal courthouse where firearms are prohibited.

"All we want is what they have. We want to be able to control our own property," Jones said. "I don't know how far these people want to go."

Prospects for challenging local gun control ordinances got a boost last year when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Americans have the right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere they live. The ruling overturned Chicago's blanket ban on handguns.

The court made it clear in that decision that prohibiting felons and the mentally ill from having firearms and barring guns from schools and government buildings were OK. The same was true of laws imposing conditions and qualifications on sales, according to the decision.

Published: Thu, Feb 10, 2011

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