Copyright 2017 Charleston Newspapers
By Lacie Pierson Staff writer
A Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge ruled last week that some municipal recreation centers are, for legal purposes, school facilities, and firearms can't be carried there.
Judge James Stucky also more clearly defined what it means to "securely store a firearm at such centers in a ruling on a motion filed by the West Virginia Citizens Defense League last month.
In his ruling filed Sept. 21, Stucky said that firearms are prohibited at recreation centers in Charleston, if those centers have a lease with the Kanawha County Board of Education to host school functions and activities, like regular athletic practices and games or other events.
"This prohibition of firearms in these leased and used municipal building shall extend permanently, at all times and not just the times the functions or activities are taking place, so long as the board of education has a valid lease or right of possession of such facility, Stucky said in the ruling.
If the recreation center is not leased for school activities, then people who have a valid license to carry a concealed weapon at the center can, as long as the firearm is securely stored, out of view and not accessible to others.
Stucky's ruling on the recreation centers sides with arguments made by Sean McGinley, on behalf of the City of Charleston, who argued municipal centers used for school-sanctioned events qualified as school facilities.
Shawn Romano, representing the West Virginia Citizens Defense League argued on Aug. 28 that Charleston's enforcement of gun laws was inconsistent with state law in regard to whether a person who brought a gun to a municipal recreation center could be charged with a felony.
Stucky's ruling combined arguments from both sides in another question in the case: The standard of what was safe storage of a firearm.
Romano said if a firearm was securely stored on the gun owner's person or in the glove compartment of their vehicle while they're at a recreation center, that constitutes secure storage.
McGinley said federal law defined "secure storage as being a gun safe, general safe or lock box, that only can be unlocked by key or combination. McGinley took issue with defining purses and holsters as being secure means of storage.
Both attorneys agreed only people who had concealed carry permits were allowed to bring guns into recreation facilities.
Stucky ruled that secure storage of a firearm is when the firearm is on one's person in a holster, a purse or a bag, as long as the firearm remains "attached to the individual, firmly adhered to one's body and is not freely placed. He also ruled it would be acceptable for people to store firearms in a locker at the center or a gun case, as long as the locker or case is locked and secured by key or combination.
Stucky also ruled the recreation centers are not obligated to provide the lockers or cases for firearm storage.
"Individuals who have obtained the license for concealed carry have obtained more training than the average constitutional carrier and therefore have been granted an exemption to the municipal ordinance so long as they adhere to the modifiers of out of view and access to others,' Stucky said. "Once the firearm is no longer secure, the exemption status is removed.
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