Nohe backs bill aimed at gun rights

CHARLESTON – State residents want the Legislature to protect people’s Second Amendment rights, a Wood County senator said.

Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, introduced a bill he believes would protect people’s right to bear arms, even in the face of possible federal laws and mandates.

He and other state lawmakers have gotten a large number of emails daily asking for lawmakers to do something.

”I have been in an elected position for over 16 years and I have never had this many requests to do something,” Nohe said. ”There are literally thousands of them.”

The issue of gun control was back in the news after 26 people, including school children, were fatally attacked at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Supporters of stricter gun laws said tragedies like this one could have been avoided with strong laws limiting access to guns for some people.

Opponents said a determined individual can still get a gun and carry out an attack. Such laws would only hinder law-abiding citizens who use guns responsibly, they said.

SB 420 was introduced by Nohe this week and was co-sponsored by Sens. Dave Sypolt, R-Preston; Craig Blair, R-Berkeley; Donna Boley, R-Pleasants; Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson; Bill Cole, R-Mercer; Daniel J. Hall, D-Wyoming, and Chris Walters, R-Putnam.

Nohe said he has gotten a lot of support from senators who signed on to the bill.

”We are all getting calls to do something,” he said. ”I want people to know that we are listening to them and that we responded.”

Under the bill, called the Firearm Protection Act, any federal law that attempts to ban semiautomatic firearms or to limit the size of a magazine of a firearm or other limitation on firearms in this state is unenforceable in West Virginia.

The bill states a public servant or a dealer “selling any firearm in this state may not enforce or attempt to enforce any act, law, statute, rule or regulation of the United States government relating to a personal firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition that is owned or manufactured commercially or privately in West Virginia and that remains exclusively within the borders of West Virginia.”

“The attorney general may defend a citizen of West Virginia who is prosecuted by the United States government for violation of a federal law relating to the manufacture, sale, transfer or possession of a firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition owned or manufactured and retained exclusively within the borders of West Virginia,” the bill states.

Nohe said he does not see his bill as trying to circumvent federal law, but to protect people’s rights.

By defending the rights of one person, the attorney general would be defending the state as well, he said.

Nohe said he wanted the bill to hold muster if challenged in court so he ran it by state attorneys for review, including from the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment and is working to advance the rights of lawful gun owners, said Beth Ryan, communications director for the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.

”Within the past two months, this office has proposed a number of different initiatives to protect gun rights and expand reciprocity agreements with other states,” Ryan said. ”At this point, this office has not taken an official position with respect to this proposal, but we will always continue to look for ways to protect our citizens’ gun rights.”

The bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee, on which Nohe sits, Monday to be worked on.

For years, Nohe said, he did not believe the Second Amendment was under threat.

”Now, I believe it could be threatened,” he said. ”I really hope we can get this bill through.”