Campus Carry Bill navigates through the West Virginia Senate

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Trump said Senate Bill 10 would allow students to exercise their constitutional rights to keep and bear arms.

CHARLESTON — A bill opposed by several West Virginia universities to allow students and visitors to carry concealed weapons on campus by permission only passed the state Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self-Defense Act, passed 29-4 and is now heading to the House of Delegates for consideration. The three Democratic senators voted against the bill with Senate Health Committee Chairman Mike Maroney, R-Marshall.

SB 10 would lift bans on students and visitors to public colleges and universities from carrying a concealed weapon on campus as long as they hold a valid and current concealed carry permit as of July 1, 2024.

“We are talking about state institutions here. State institutions represent the government of West Virginia, which is limited in what it can do because of a constitutional right of citizens of this state,” said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. , Charles Trump, R-Morgan. “We’ve been trying to accommodate this and do it in a way that makes sense that preserves and gives life to the citizens of the state, even those who are just middle schoolers, a constitutional right they have to have a weapon to defend themselves. .”

The bill includes numerous exceptions, including a ban on concealed carry at events in stadiums and arenas with more than 1,000 spectators, on-campus daycares, areas used by law enforcement , facilities with armed personnel and metal detectors, at formal discipline and grievance hearings, single occupancy offices, at elementary or high school sponsored events on a college campus, at private functions, laboratories and areas where patient care or mental health services are provided.

picture by: Photo courtesy of WV Legislative Photography

State Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, said the campus bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday will not create a good image for colleges and universities in the state.

The bill also prohibits concealed carry in on-campus residence halls, except for common areas, such as lounges, dining rooms and study rooms. Colleges and universities must provide secure storage of weapons in residence halls and may charge a storage fee.

The bill also allows colleges and universities to take disciplinary action against students who violate state concealed carry laws and provisions of the bill. It also protects colleges and universities from liability.

SB 10 is opposed by both West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad Smith, who co-wrote a letter to lawmakers last week . In a statement released after Tuesday’s vote, WVU said it still remained opposed, but appreciated the exceptions in the bill.

“While we do not support campus porting, we appreciate that the Senate retains best practices and safeguards from other states in this bill,” the statement said. “We hope the House of Delegates will keep these provisions intact as they consider the legislation. The provisions are essential for our university communities.

According to the Associated Press, the presidents of West Virginia State University, Concord University and Shepherd University also co-wrote their own letters of opposition to the bill.

“Higher education officials said they” strongly support the Second Amendment and the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms, but have serious reservations about significant public safety challenges and financial burdens “which the bill would impose,” wrote AP reporter Leah Willingham. .

The complaints relate to potential costs to state colleges and universities associated with implementing the law. A tax memo for a similar bill in 2019 estimated the cost to colleges and universities at around $11 million. Costs would come from hiring additional on-campus police officers, metal detectors and wands, and providing storage lockers.

The presidents also raised concerns about the increase in mental health issues and suicides on campus and whether allowing students to conceal weapons would provide more opportunities for students to attempt suicide or possibly engage in mass shootings.

“I’m really, really concerned about the kind of image we’re giving to people who want to send kids to state institutions,” said Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, speaking out against the bill. law. “I just think the atmosphere on college campuses where kids party and learn and grow, things happen. They just do. I dread the idea of ​​handguns being so readily available to them when bad things start happening on campus.

According to the advocacy group Students for Concealed Carry, 11 states allow some form of concealed carry on campus as of 2020, while 16 states prohibit concealed carry on campus. Another 23 states allow colleges and universities to set their own rules regarding concealed carry. The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action urged supporters to contact their lawmakers to push the bill through.

“Current state law does not prohibit the carrying of a defensive firearm on campus, but institutional policy may result in expulsion or termination,” according to a message from the NRA-ILA. last week. “Adults who are officially allowed to carry a firearm for self-defense should not be prevented from doing so simply because they are pursuing higher education.”

According to a policy brief from Everytown for Gun Safety, a project of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, there is little evidence gun crimes or mass shootings have been deterred in States that allow Campus Carry, while cases of one-on-one gun crimes and suicides have increased.

“In the small number of states that have forced guns on college campuses, there is no evidence that it has helped prevent mass shootings,” according to their 2021 guidance document. nor is there any reason to expect this policy to stop ongoing shootings: under extreme duress, an armed college student or professor cannot be expected to turn into a policeman specially trained tactics.”

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