A new, voluntary gun registration program in the state’s capital concerns a statewide gun rights group. The program is designed to help track down stolen weapons.
At a shooting range in Putnam County, Keith Morgan and a few friends take aim. They’re all gun enthusiasts, and Morgan is the president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights lobbying group.

Project Gun Safe, a recent initiative by the Charleston Police Department introduces several programs designed to increase public safety in the city limits. There’s a gun buyback program, as well as programs to reward informants and involve youth. But Morgan takes issue with a voluntary gun registration.

“We’re opposed to it on fundamental reasons that registration is a necessary prerequisite to confiscation,” he said. “You have to know where the guns are before you can go in and get them.”

Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster says the program is just about recording serial numbers. If a firearm is stolen, the serial number is the only way to get it back to its rightful owner.

“There really shouldn’t be a lot to be concerned about,” he said. “This is really about public safety, this has nothing to do with gun ownership, it has nothing to do with the second amendment, the right to bear arms.”

Webster says the Charleston Police Department plans to set up a booth a few times a year to give citizens a chance to register their guns. He doesn’t care whether people take advantage of the voluntary registration or not, but wants all gun owners to keep copies of their serial numbers.

But Keith Morgan sees Project Gun Safe as Charleston’s latest move to infringe on his Second Amendment rights. The city passed several gun ordinances in 1993. There’s a three-day waiting period to buy a gun, and you can only buy one handgun in a thirty-day period. More recently, firearms aren’t allowed on city property.

Charleston City Councilman Tom Lane wrote the 1993 ordinances. He says they were sparked by incidences in the early 1990s, where people were coming to Charleston to traffic in guns and drugs.

Source: Erica Peterson for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

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