Campus Carry Heads to House Floor Despite Opposition in First Public Hearing

Matthew Schaffer, News Editor

Despite a showing of staunch opposition at its first public hearing, Senate Bill 10 (or the Campus Self-Defense Act) is heading to a vote on the floor of the House of Delegates after a recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 15.

The bill is expected to pass the House floor vote before heading to the Gov. Jim Justice’s desk to be signed into law. 

The hearing was attended by faculty, students, administration and staff of both Marshall University and West Virginia University—as well as numerous citizens of the state—overwhelmingly expressing their concerns about the bill, with 37 of the 39 speakers being opposed. 

Those in opposition cited student safety, the economic impact, law enforcement safety and the mental health crisis as deterrents for the bill. 

“I’m not going to say that this is going to increase actual violence on campus. It might,” said Chris White, Marshall history professor and former Marine Corps infantryman. “But what I do know is it’s going to increase accidental discharges because the students and other people there are not trained in the same way military and law enforcement are, as well as suicides.”

“I find this bill to be unnecessary in the face of many other issues our state currently has,” Marshall freshman Emma Crouch said. “Colleges have high rates of mental illness and increased use of alcohol and drugs, making the presence of guns potentially deadly.”

“This is a red flag law for major corporations,” said Robin Godfrey, a retired lawyer and gun owner. “This says to students and companies coming here, ’Do not come here. It’s not safe.’” 

“We believe it fosters an environment of mistrust and uncertainty,” WVU senior Bella Metichell said. “We feel as though asking students to give up their safety for someone’s potential heroism is unfair.”

While most speakers challenged the passage of the bill, some citizens, such as Zachery Campbell of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League, spoke in defense of the bill.

“Senate Bill 10 does not make it legal for a state-licensed conceal carry holder to carry a firearm on a public university campus. Today, it is already 100% legal,” Campbell said. “It removes the administrative penalties for students and staff that choose to arm themselves.”

The state Senate approved The Campus Self-Defense Act on Jan. 24 by a 29–4 vote, despite objections by university presidents Brad D. Smith of Marshall and E. Gordon Gee of West Virginia University.

The bill would allow concealed carry on campuses for those ages 18-21 holding provisional licenses and those 21 and up with standard licenses. It also would apply to residents of other states who may legally carry in West Virginia under reciprocity agreements.

Senate Bill 10 contains 12 exceptions where institutions may continue to ban concealed carry.