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Give Cities More, Not Less, Flexibility

December 29, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

"Home rule" was supposed to give West Virginia municipalities more control over our own destinies, not less.

For about five years, Wheeling and three other cities have been involved in a home rule pilot project, under which the municipalities enjoyed some freedom from restrictive state rules. The experiment has been a success. Here in Wheeling, it has allowed the city to enact a local sales tax, reduce the red tape burden on businesses, and adopt new tools to crack down on dilapidated buildings.

State officials have agreed the program should be expanded. Fifteen more cities may be added to it next year.

But there's a catch. Reacting to proponents of stricter rules on firearms sales and ownership, legislators inserted a provision into the home rule program that bans cities from enacting their own gun control ordinances.

Only Charleston, to our knowledge, has such local rules. Wheeling does not.

While most West Virginians dislike infringements on our constitutional right to keep and bear arms, that really is not the point. It is, instead, that the home rule program should be loosening state control over municipalities, not tightening it.

After all, residents of any community where unduly restrictive firearms rules are adopted can get rid of the ordinances themselves, by electing new city council members.

The issue here is simple: If legislators use the home rule law to establish one new limit on cities, they may employ it on other issues, too. The gun ordinance ban should be removed.

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