Marshall Students React to Campus Carry Bill

Lydia Montague, Student Reporter

A bill allowing students to carry concealed weapons on West Virginia college campuses with a permit passed the WV State Senate Tuesday and will now head to the House of Delegates for review. 

Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self-Defense Act, would apply to universities beginning Jul. 1, 2024, affecting students on campuses across the state.

“I don’t know if I feel safe with a bill being applied on campus to where anybody can just carry a gun. Personally, I do not agree with it because of my concerns with personal safety. There are many other things that you can carry,” Marshall senior Macy McElhaney said. 

The bill will include multiple exceptions. Concealed carry at public campus events and stadiums will not be allowed under any circumstance. Private offices, sponsored events, areas used by law enforcement and daycare facilities are also included on the list of prohibited areas. However, students like Marshall sophomore Bella Thompson feel that it will cause more harm than good, especially to women.

“Particularly for women, you’re already scared that someone is going to come at you on campus, and if that person is carrying a legalized concealed gun, that’s even scarier. On campus, there’s a reason why there are security towers. There’s a reason why we’re told to carry pepper spray which, just based on precedent, is all I think you would really ever need,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s opinions were echoed by several other female students, including McElhaney.

“As a woman, when I walk anywhere, my mom always says, ‘Do you have pepper spray?’ or ‘Do you have your taser?’ so there is obviously already widespread concern for safety on college campuses and adding guns might not be the best option,” McElhaney said.

The bill will not only be affecting Marshall’s campus but schools across the state as well. Reagan McLean, a sophomore at the University of Charleston, says that she was shocked when she initially discovered it had passed.

“I understand why students may want to carry concealed weapons because West Virginia areas can feel very threatening at times. However, I don’t think that I agree because of the increased rates of school shootings and gun violence. I think the state should educate students that are worried about their safety in other ways so they can stand up for themselves in public,” McLean said. 

The Self-Defense Act states that only those who are licensed and have a legal permit will be able to carry weapons on campus, and no one will be allowed to open carry.

Will Raines, Marshall sophomore, says the permit requirement makes the bill reasonable. 

“I think that if you are of legal ability to carry and you have gone through your handgun training courses and you carry a concealed carry permit, I don’t see a problem with carrying on campus,” Raines said.

His opinion of the bill was not shared by Marshall senior, Essence Clerkley, who said she had experienced gun violence in her own lifetime more than once.

“My first reaction was definitely, ‘Wow. The world we live in never learns truly.’ Never once does adding violence to a situation ever make it better. My heart breaks a little because I am a product of an environment where guns are picked up to solve the issue. I’ve had multiple classmates and friends shot over meaningless situations. I just don’t feel guns are the answer. They take more than they give. I know that they want to promote the students’ safety outside of campus, but there are always more ways to solve a problem,” she said.

Several university presidents, including Marshall President Brad Smith, have made statements against the bill, sharing their concerns as well. In a letter sent to the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee, Smith and West Virginia University President Gordon Gee wrote,”We believe that our boards of governors are best suited to decide whether guns should be permitted on campus. We therefore do not support statewide campus carry.”

The bill awaits review by the Republican supermajority in the House of Delegates.