Randy Yohe Published

Opposition Dominates Public Debate On Campus Carry Bill 

A woman stands at a podium holding a photograph in the West Virginia House of Delegates chamber.
A mother, whose daughter is a college professor, shows lawmakers a picture of her daughter's classroom. She described it as small with only one way in or out and difficult to escape if an active shooter was present. The mother was one of several speakers in opposition to the campus carry bill during a public hearing on Feb. 15, 2023.
Randy Yohe/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This is a developing story and may be updated.

This story was updated on Feb 15, 2023 at 3:58 pm

With another university campus mass shooting earlier this week, legislative and public debate over the Campus Self-Defense Act has fostered heightened emotion from both sides. Will allowing the concealed carry of firearms on a West Virginia campus add more protection or create more danger?

The House Judiciary Committee held a Wednesday morning, one-hour public hearing on Senate Bill 10, commonly known as the campus carry bill. It would allow college students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on all but a few restricted areas on college campuses. There were 37 people opposed to the bill and only two speaking in support of campus carry. Each speaker had one minute. 

Chris White, a Marshall University history professor, and former Marine infantryman, said the Second Amendment, the right to bear arms, must come with safety controls this bill does not offer.

“There are many, many months worth of training that military and police officers have to go through before they are able to earn that second amendment right and carry those weapons in public,” White said. “Every single moment in which a weapon is in the hands of a soldier or a police officer is controlled. None of those safety controls will be imposed on our students or anybody else who comes on to campus. Marshall University, WVU, the other universities, have expressed that they are opposed to this bill. I am not going to say that this is going to increase actual violence on campus. It might. But what I do know is they’re going to increase accidental discharges.”

Speaking in favor of the Campus Self-Defense Act, Art Thomm said he represented the National Rifle Association. He said Michigan college students killed earlier this week might be alive if campus carry was allowed. 

I live here, my college age sons live here, my wife and my young stepdaughter live here. Our loved ones deserve the right to defend themselves from a deadly attack in a gun free zone without having to make the choice of employment, education or their life,” Thomm said. “As already referenced, there was a shooting just this week where a lunatic went on a college campus in Michigan, a place where it was illegal under statute to carry a firearm and shot eight students killing three of them.”

After the public hearing, Democratic lawmakers from the Morgantown area joined West Virginia University students and staff in solidarity against campus carry. Del. Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, boiled down much of the sentiment expressed in the public hearing.

“Their concerns include things like an increase in assaults and sexual assaults,” Hansen said. “How this would interact with mental health and suicide on campus, the possibility of accidental discharges, the drinking and drug use on campus and how bringing guns into that equation might cause more harm than good. People also mentioned issues with recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students.”

WVU faculty member Maria Perez said some students taught her to appreciate firearms used for hunting, but others expressed the fear of a high number of military veteran suicides by handgun having parallels to college students.

“His uncle was a lawful firearms owner, he had no mental illness antecedent, his dog had died and then he got into a fight with his wife and shortly after he shot himself and died,” Perez said. “It was a moment of crisis. This combined with the availability of a firearm creates conditions that result in the sudden and tragic end of a life.”

Lawmakers who support campus carry, like Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, said the proposal extends the constitutional Second Amendment rights to college campuses.

“You and I can carry a firearm, as is our right, in any portion of that facility that it’s not prohibited in. This just affords that same right and opportunity to the students and faculty,” Steele said. “You can have an 18-year-old person who hasn’t matriculated at school, legally carrying a firearm. You shouldn’t have to surrender your firearms rights just because you become employed at the university or college or become matriculated and become a student.”

Marshall University, West Virginia University, Concord University and West Virginia State University are among state universities that have voiced their opposition to campus carry.

The bill is expected to be considered in the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday afternoon for more debate.


After more than two hours of emotional debate and testimony in the House Judiciary Committee, Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self-Defense Act was sent to the house floor with the recommendation that it do pass.