UPDATED: Justice Signs Campus Self-Defense Act into Law

Matthew Schaffer, News Editor

Following the signing of Senate Bill 10—or the Campus Self-Defense Act—by Governor Jim Justice on Mar. 1, Marshall and other colleges statewide are preparing for what campus safety will look like after the new law allows the concealed carry of handguns on campus.

“Since January, our Division of Operations has led an ad hoc committee to develop recommendations for implementation of the then-possible legislation,” said Leah Payne, Marshall University’s Director of Communications. 

She went on to say, “Working with the Higher Education Policy Commision and other colleges and universities across the state, the group will deliver its final recommendations relating to overall campus safety prior to its implementation date.”

While the university has until July, 2023 to produce the recommendations,Payne elaborated that Marshall will continue to prioritize students, faculty, staff and community members, a sentiment echoing that of Marshall president Brad Smith in a press release that followed the measure’s introduction.

Meanwhile, Marshall professor Chris White—who was a vocal opponent of the law—has been considering a teach-in or lecture series that would highlight concerns of the Marshall community. However, it is still in the early stages of development.

“We want to have a nice presentation on the main points of the law and our interpretation of the law and what it means for Marshall,” White said. “It would really be about having an honest conversation.”

White advises students who may be wary of the new law to read the measures to further understand the implications of its passage. 

He also explained that concealed carry license holders are required to go through background checks; however, his fear arises from the accidents that could occur from a lack of safety provisions preventing students without a license from obtaining a weapon.

The law allows for the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses state-wide for current concealed carry permit holders—including those from 18 to 21 with a provisional license—by overriding the authority of higher education committees to restrict the carry of firearms on campuses.

The law does include exemptions, such as for sporting events, campus daycares and residence halls, except in common areas such as student lounges. Senate Bill 10 also prohibits the concealed carry in office spaces, disciplinary hearings, grievance hearings and mental health patient care facilities. The measure allows institutions 18 months to prepare before the law takes effect in July 2024.

The universities are responsible for providing storage facilities or in-room safes for handguns. The measure allows the universities to charge students fees for firearm storage. The higher education institutions will also be responsible for any additional training required for faculty, staff and campus police.

The law was opposed by both Marshall President Smith as well as West Virginia University President E. Gordan Gee. Both presidents released a joint letter to the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee saying that while they “support local control,” they did “not support statewide campus carry.”

However, in light of the law’s passing, Smith addressed some of its ramifications and Marshall’s preparations in a press release that same Wednesday. 

“Now that this bill has been signed into law, we must come together as a community and work through the implications as they relate to the overall safety of our campuses and centers,” he said. “As we move forward, we will continue our prioritized focus of safety for all of us – students, faculty, staff, visitors and community.”

During the signing ceremony, Justice thanked the West Virginia legislature for the law’s passage and the National Rifle Association for their support for the measure while also addressing the fears over student safety.

“We awaken over and over and over—whether it be to a television broadcast or whatever it may be—to a catastrophe happening in lots of different places in our nation many, many, many times,” Justice said. “If we have gun-completely-free areas—to where absolutely, without any question, there’s no way to defend ourselves—then it seems like those are the targets that are targeted many, many, many times.”

Senate Bill 10 previously passed the State Senate in a vote 29-4, followed by the House of Delegates in a vote of 84-13.