Campus Carry advances in West Virginia Senate

Campus Carry advances in West Virginia Senate
(Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

The last time the West Virginia legislature considered a campus carry bill was in 2019, when Republican infighting led to the legislation’s demise. Four years later, the bill is back, and for the moment, it appears to be in better shape than the last time around. On Wednesday, a state Senate committee approved a bill allowing those who possess a concealed carry license to carry on college and university campuses starting next year, sending it to the floor for consideration by the full Senate.

While the measure would remove the “gun-free zone” designation from many parts of college campuses, there are some exceptions built in to the bill.

Exceptions include prohibiting concealed carry at organized events at stadiums and arenas with more than 1,000 spectators, daycare facilities on campus, areas used by law enforcement, facilities with armed personnel and metal detectors, at formal disciplinary and grievance hearings, sole occupancy offices, at primary or secondary school-sponsored events on a college campus, at private functions, laboratories and areas where patient care or mental health services are being provided.

The bill also prohibits concealed carry on-campus residence halls, except for common areas such as lounges, dining areas and study halls.

According to the text of the legislation, all dorms would be required to have secured storage for residents who possess a concealed carry license, though it’s unclear if that provision would apply to all on-campus housing, including campus apartments.

It seems to me that if someone is responsible enough to carry in a dining area, they’re responsible enough to safely store their firearm in their dorm room. I’d love to see that particular restriction removed as the bill makes its way through the legislature, but Democrats and higher-ed officials are still stumping to kill off the bill completely.

On Wednesday, WVU President E. Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad D. Smith shared a joint letter with members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee addressing concerns over Senate Bill 10.

SB 10, or the Campus Self-Defense Act, would allow people with concealed firearm permits to carry on college and university campuses.

In the letter, Gee and Smith shared concerns over statewide campus carry, arguing that their “board of governors are best suited to decide whether guns should be permitted on campus.”

“We understand that there is significant support for campus carry in the Legislature. If the public policy preference of the Legislature is to permit guns on campus, we hope that the Legislature considers best practices and safeguards from other states with campus carry laws,” Gee and Smith said.

WVU’s Faculty Senate issued a resolution in opposition to SB 10 on Tuesday, addressing similar concerns. They are asking lawmakers to “preserve institutional control” over decisions relating to concealed carry on campus.

In the resolution, they said, “The possession of firearms on WVU campuses by non-emergency personnel (faculty, staff, students, and visitors) may adversely affect the University including, but not limited to, public health impacts (e.g., accidents, suicides, and/or intent to cause fear or harm), the recruitment and retention of students, faculty, and staff, as well as the cost of compliance.”

There are currently 11 states that have adopted campus carry laws in some form or fashion, and I’m not aware of any mass exodus by students or staff in any state where the law is already in place. In fact, the University of Texas-Austin, which was home to very vocal anti-campus carry protests in 2015 when state legislatures approved their own campus carry law, had a record-high number of undergraduate students last year. It sure doesn’t sound like campus carry is making undergrads too gun-shy to enroll there, and I highly doubt that WVU or Marshall would suffer any drop in enrollments if the state legislature does adopt campus carry.

There’s no word on when the full Senate might take up SB 10, but now would be a great time for West Virginia gun owners to contact their senators and encourage them to vote in favor of the bill. Though the legislation isn’t perfect, it’s a good starting point for campus carry and would be a major improvement over the total and complete prohibition currently in place.