Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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University Makes Final Preparations for Campus Carry

A+statue+of+Marshalls+iconic+M+logo+just+outside+Old+Main.
Evan Green
A statue of Marshall’s iconic “M” logo just outside Old Main.

Time Until Campus Carry Goes Into Effect in West Virginia
Campus Carry is currently in effect on Marshall's campus.

On July 1, a significant change will occur in West Virginia universities. Senate Bill 10, also known as the Campus Self-Defense Act, will require all higher education institutions in the state to allow concealed firearms on their campuses. 

The bill was signed into law on March 1, 2023,  despite protests from university administrators such as WVU President Gordon Gee and Marshall President Brad D. Smith. University administrators have spent the time since the bill passed preparing for the bill’s implementation.

In the past, the decision to allow guns on university campuses was left to the governing bodies of each individual university, such as the Board of Governors at Marshall University.

An infographic laying out some of the data and statistics surrounding campus carry across the nation. (Evan Green)

“Faculty Senate has passed no fewer than seven resolutions over the years against campus carry, and every single time we’ve laid out all of the reasons, which includes several things,” said Mary-Beth Beller, an associate professor of political science at Marshall University and a long-standing member of Marshall’s faculty senate. “For the first, we know from Chief Terry that experienced officers who get training every year very often don’t even have high rates of accurate shooting, and so for somebody that doesn’t have a lot of experience and a lot of training, it’s wholly possible for that person to misfire a gun. We also know that students very often are going to carry weapons in backpacks and jackets, and in a fit of being late, simply throw those down, which means the gun could actually be fired.”

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Beller also pointed to the mental health of students as a concern behind campus carry, citing statistics showing that suicide rates increase when weapons are easily available.

“We fear for our students because they go through a lot of pressures, a lot of stress socially as well as academically, and so the faculty have been opposed to this for many years,” Beller said.

While the bill does require universities to allow concealed carry on their campuses, it allows for 11 exemptions for specific areas where guns may be prohibited. These areas include daycares, areas where dangerous chemicals may be present and single-person offices.

These exemptions have been at the forefront of preparation and research efforts at Marshall University to prepare for the implementation of campus carry.

At Marshall University, administrators have been working on implementation procedures and policies since the passing of SB-10.

“Once it looked like campus carry was going to pass, President Smith tasked operations, which is my boss, for us to put a committee together to see what we were going to do,” said Chief Jim Terry, director of public safety for Marshall and chief of the MUPD. “Nineteen people from all over the institution- they went out and they talked to the states that already have campus carry; they did research to meet the law.”

Terry emphasized that the implementation team is focused on the 11 exceptions included in SB-10. Nearly $300,000 has been put toward security measures in areas such as the daycare center on campus, office signage and security features for athletic facilities. Terry also pointed out the restrictions that already exist for concealed carry in general.

“You have to have a gun permit, you have to have a photo ID with you, you have to have a concealed weapons permit and you have to be 21 years old to get that unless you have another reason, job-related or some other function.” 

Students must also adequately store their weapons in the dorms, which means they must either rent or purchase a safe. Terry’s biggest concern doesn’t come from responsible gun owners but rather those who may not pay attention to their weapons the way they should. 

“They get tired of carrying the weapon, they get tired of dressing the way you have to dress when you carry a weapon, and it’s going to end up off-body, it’s going to be in a backpack, and we’re going to have an accidental discharge. That’s my biggest concern,” Terry said. 

Pullquote Photo

It’s the fear of the unknown. They’ve never had to do this before. But, as we point out in our town halls, you do it every day. You’re going to the mall, you’re going to church, you’re going to eat out, West Virginia is a constitutional carry state, so you’re around weapons all the time, you just don’t know it.

— Chief Jim Terry

Brea Belville is another university figure working to provide more safety options for students. Belville was recently elected student body president for the 2024-25 school year. A large part of her campaign focused on student safety and campus carry, and she spoke on what made it a priority for her cabinet.

“Obviously, this is something completely new to West Virginia and higher education and, with that, comes lots of changes, and we knew that that also meant lots of concerns from students,” Belville said. “We wanted to make sure that we addressed what students were most concerned about and look for ways that we could provide tangible resources for them in the upcoming school year.”

One of the main resources Belville is working to provide is access to the LiveSafe app. Other institutions near Marshall use this app, which gives students access to robust safety features such as a map that lists out all the emergency lights on campus, easy call buttons for MUPD and 911 and a walk feature that lets users share their location with a friend if they’re worried when walking around campus.

Shawn Schulenberg, a political science professor and chair of the faculty senate, gave insight into the faculty and administration’s expectations for campus carry’s implementation in July.

“What we did when we figured out what to do here is we looked at the best practices. Other states have done this, so what has happened as a result afterwards? Luckily, the data shows that it hasn’t led to a large increase in violent incidents on campus, so that’s a positive aspect.”

Schulenberg also expressed his feelings about the legislature’s decision to place the financial burden of implementation on the university.

“We can disagree about the politics of it, but I just wish they paid for the implementation of it. They put it on the back of the university, and it’s going to cost us roughly $300,000 that we could spend on our students instead.”

With a little over two months remaining until campus carry’s implementation, only time will tell how effective the university’s policies will be and if West Virginia will match the data surrounding campus carry across the nation.

 

Photos from 2019 Campus Carry Protest

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