EDITORIAL: House self-defense bill opens up a whole slew of concerns for W.V. universities


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The West Virginia Legislature is currently circulating a bill that will force public universities in the state to allow concealed carry on campus with a permit. This would include allowing weapons in campus buildings and at sporting events. However, there are some exceptions where university’s are allowed to regulate concealed carry.

The House Education committee passed the bill, and it is now under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.

Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason and lead sponsor of House Bill 4298, otherwise known as the “Campus Self-Defense Act”, suggests the bill would level the playing field, heralding self-defense as the main reason.

Every public four-year college in the state is opposed to the bill. Some of the major concerns universities have voiced are the potential risks of sporting events and tailgating, where rivalry and alcohol abound, as well fraternity events, or even the chance of an angry student facing discipline.

“I don’t want gun-toting students on campus, and I don’t want gun-toting faculty and staff and administrators on campus,” said West Virginia State University president Anthony Jenkins.

Marshall University is a part of that list, with the faculty-senate, campus police department, and the university president Jerry Gilbert opposing the bill.

“If I thought that allowing individuals to bring guns on our campus would increase safety, I would be in favor of it,” Gilbert wrote to members of the W.V. House Judiciary Committee. “I firmly believe that guns on campus will decrease the level of safety and put people at more risk of accidental or purposeful injury due to firearm use.”

For every institution to openly oppose this bill should be a very clear message to the House of Delegates that this is simply a bad idea. Students should not have to feel uncomfortable on their own campus, knowing that the person next to them is armed. That is no way to learn. Furthermore, college is often characterized by sleep depravity and anxiety.

A 2017 survey from the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment found that in a span of 12 months, 51 percent of college students had felt things were hopeless, 84 percent felt exhausted, 62 percent felt very lonely, 61 percent felt overwhelming anxiety, 39 percent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function and 40 percent felt overwhelming anger. The last thing we need to add to that complicated, emotional mix is a firearm.

State legislators need to listen to university administrations and throw this bill away. It is not helpful. It is not wanted. It is not safe.

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