McKinley talks guns, safety in Weirton

WEIRTON Congressman David B. McKinley, R-Wheeling, visited Weirton Thursday for a Hancock-Brooke Counties Law Enforcement Roundtable centered on the Second Amendment.

Participants included McKinley; Sheriff Ralph Fletcher of Hancock County; Mayor George Kondik; Ward 3 Councilman and business owner Fred Marsh; City Finance Director Tom Maher; Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp.; Larry Dotson, gun owner and member of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League; A.G. Lucas of the Hancock County Sportsman’s Club; A.D. “Butch” and Stephanie Mastrantoni, gun shop owners; and Carl Thompson of Colliers Sportsman’s Club.

Some of the topics discussed included concealed carry permits, potential changes to language in the Second Amendment, the scope of gun control legislation, guns in schools, background checks and recent shortages of ammunition as well as the possible causes behind them.

Fletcher said that the U.S. Department of Justice has not been doing its job, alleging that law enforcement on the federal level selects which laws to enforce based on party affiliations or personal opinions.

“You don’t pick and choose what laws appeal to your ideology, and that is what appears to be happening right now,” Fletcher said. “We do it on the state and local level, and I just wish you all would do it on the federal level: We all should follow the rules that have been prescribed to us, whether it’s something that goes against your party’s opinion or not.”

Fletcher and Mastrantoni both expressed concern about the lack of available ammunition and the rising costs of what is available. McKinley asked whether they believed the shortages are being caused by individual buyers stocking up or by mass purchases made by government entities. He added that this is an issue he’s heard about in many places across West Virginia and beyond.

“That worries me, because I can’t even get enough ammunition for my deputies to practice,” Fletcher said.

Mastrantoni said he believed the depth of such shortages is too much to attribute to individual buyers alone. He added that law makers should not legislate gun laws “based on the extremes.”

“In our 10 years of business we have trained more than 500 people. We believe in teaching gun safety and responsible gun ownership, and responsible gun owners are the silent majority,” he said. “We shouldn’t be legislating one thing across the board when the problem has multiple facets to it.”

McKinley said many of the problems facing cities like Weirton come from a “battle against rural America” taking place in Washington D.C. He pointed out that metropolitan Pittsburgh has five representatives whereas the entire state of West Virginia only has three. States like Alaska and Wyoming only have one. This imbalance means that the wants and needs of metropolitan areas are being prioritized over the needs of rural communities with smaller populations.

“The gun issue is another manifestation of this,” he said.

Several other subjects came up during the discussion.

Kondik asked McKinley about the decline of Community Development Block Grant funding, and McKinley attributed that to the imbalance of power between provincial locations and big cities in the U.S. as well. He said important funds that once helped the infrastructure of small towns have been cut to free up more money to flow into “climate change informational materials.”

Ford asked McKinley for federal help in the effort to revitalize and decontaminate abandoned or under-used industrial properties in the region. He said that legislation must be adjusted to make those properties more appealing and feasible for use and sale.

(Dalrymple can be contacted at