Not too far from here, local gun owners are protesting a letter sent to members of the legislature by Berekley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely, asking for stricter laws covering concealed carry.
MARTINSBURG - Carrying signs displaying "Neely Criminal Protector" and "Armed Society = Safer Society," about 20 members of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League staged a protest Friday afternoon on the corner of South Raleigh and West Stephen streets.And I have to agree with the protesters here. A firearm carried by a law-abiding, responsible person poses no threat to anyone else, but rules barring such people from carrying firearms don't deter law-breakers or evil-doers in the slightest. Just ask any of the survivors of the Virginia Tech massacre. They and those who were killed and wounded were all disarmed in advance of that event by an act of the school and the state legislature, ensuring that the killer, Seung Hui Cho, has a monopoly on the use of deadly force.
"We oppose the views of the prosecutor and her statement demanding a change to West Virginia's carry laws," explained Art Thomm, Eastern Panhandle representative and board member of the WVCDL.
Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely, a Republican, sent an email dated Oct. 25 to all local state legislators calling for a change to West Virginia state code regarding taking a firearm onto college campuses.
Her email was posted on state Delegate Larry D. Kump's blog. Kump is a Republican from Berkeley County.
Games-Neely was reacting to an incident earlier in October when a student at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College brought a concealed handgun onto the satellite campus at the old Corning Plant and into the main campus in the Dunn Building on West Stephen Street.
Joshua Beck, 26, of Martinsburg, who has a concealed carry permit, was originally charged with two felony counts of bringing a gun onto school property.
The felony charges were later dropped because Games-Neely questioned the language of the statute, that is whether the law clearly prohibited weapons from college campuses.
Beck was later charged with two misdemeanors, essentially, for not obeying an order by the college to not bring weapons onto school property.
Games-Neely was not available for comment Friday, but wrote in her email to legislators:
"I am a very strong supporter of the second amendment, but there must be some common sense applied here. I can think of nothing worse than people attending an athletic event, living in a dorm, or sitting beside someone in a science class with a firearm strapped to their side or worse, concealed on their person."
"As a parent of college students, I do not think I should have to worry about making sure they have their books, clothes, laptop and now a 45-caliber weapon in an educational setting," she continued. "This statutory error puts higher education students, faculty and administration at risk. Most people have enough sense not to do this, but obviously we have those who do not."
Games-Neely went on to ask legislators to address the issue as soon as possible by adding the words "post-secondary," "post-secondary vocational or technical" "or other institutions of higher learning" to state code.
Thomm said that no evidence supports her supposition.
"Never has a licensed person caused trouble," he said Friday at the demonstration held in the shadow of Blue Ridge CTC's Martinsburg campus. "This demonstration shows that lawfully abiding citizens are less likely to cause trouble. We don't cause trouble. We don't want to cause trouble."
Thomm estimated that 98 percent of the people taking part in the demonstration have concealed weapons permits and were carrying guns.
There was sporadic horn honking by cars passing the busy intersection in support of the demonstrators and some words of encouragement from motorists stopped at the intersection.
Thomm said Games-Neely's email exposed her as against 2nd Amendment rights. The 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
"She is using the same tactics as terrorists," Thomm said of Games-Neely. "She is using fear to get her own way."
He urged residents of Martinsburg and Berkeley County to remember that when they go to the polls next year to vote. Games-Neely's current term as prosecuting attorney is up next year.
So I wish these folks well, and I urge all Berkley County voters to boot Games-Neely next year and replace her with someone who is her diametric opposite: tough on crime and respectful of the rights of the law-abiding.