By Nick Foutrakis
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Morgantown City Council barely passed an ordinance prohibiting guns in municipal buildings and on city-owned property.
The ordinance was passed after a four to three vote decided on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Councilors Bill Kawecki, Nancy Ganz, Jenny Selin and Marti Shamberger voted in favor of the ordinance while Wes Nugent, Jay Redmon and Ron Bane opposed it.
The new ordinance will allow firearm owners to store guns out of view in their vehicles when in parking garages or lots if they wish to enter a municipal building.
Leading up to the final vote, more than a dozen people used the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s meeting to express their concerns about this new ordinance. The majority of the people were against the ordinance, however, a few were in favor of it.
“This ordinance not only strips citizens of their rights, but it leaves them defenseless.” Said Josh Zengery of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, or WVCDL.
One of the main points from most citizens who spoke in front of Council was the fact that they would be left vulnerable on the walk from their car into the city owned property.
On the other hand, some citizens felt as if there are more pressing issues going on in the city and this ordinance was just a way for Mayor Shamberger to, “feel good about herself,” as Dr. Daniel Kirk said.
“Everyone here now knows someone who died from heroin, how many people do we know who died from guns?” said Dr. Kirk.
The citizens are not the only ones who felt divided on this issue, members of the Council also did not agree with each other on whether or not this ordinance will actually keep people safe.
“What concerns me is the people who won’t look at a sticker on the window,” said Ron Bane. “People who want to bring guns into here don’t look at a sticker… And once they’re in, no one can stop them.”
Ron Bane appeared to be very distraught after the ordinance was passed. He was visibly upset, slouched over in his chair, leaning on one hand while shaking his head. Deputy Mayor Bill Kawecki had a different position on the ordinance and seemed a little more upbeat.
“This does not take away the right to own guns,” said Kawecki. “I own a gun, I would never vote for something like that.”
Any new law regarding firearms is a big issue for citizens of West Virginia, and one West Virginian drove a half hour to speak in front of Council.
“I’m not a member of Morgantown, but I’m close, and I just had to come here and say this,” said Dave Freeman. “When you call for the police, you are calling for someone with a gun. How long are you willing to wait? It could be the difference between life and death.”
Regardless of the majority of people who were against the ordinance, it was passed. Mayor Shamberger believes this is the start of a safer Morgantown.
“I believe we did a good job on this,” said Mayor Marti Shamberger.