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The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced a bill to the Senate floor Thursday that would allow the concealed carry of handguns on the state’s university campuses.
Senate Bill 10 would allow holders of concealed handgun permits to carry concealed on all of the state’s higher education campuses, regardless of existing restrictions. The presidents of the state’s leading public universities have said they oppose the measure.
Eleven other states currently require colleges and universities to allow concealed carry including Arkansas, Kansas and Georgia which all passed similar legislation in 2017.
While SB 10 does exclude many on campus locations from concealed carry, the law ultimately limits schools’ ability to restrict handguns on campus, and requires the institutions to provide gun safes in dormitories.
Sen. Jay Taylor, R-Taylor, said the bill protects Second Amendment rights.
“This is allowing everyone to have their Second Amendment rights so that they’re able to defend themselves,” he said. “It’s a dangerous world out there, and I think when people are free to exercise their Second Amendment rights, it’s a safer world.”
Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, was the sole objector to the bill, questioning the bill’s safety, as well as the financial and logistical responsibility it introduces for schools.
“I think it’s a huge burden that we’re putting on the universities,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a huge cost. I think it’s gonna be a huge headache, and I just hope and pray that we’re not having a conversation about how this was a bad idea.”
Within moments of the committee convening Wednesday afternoon, Marshall University President Brad Smith and West Virginia University President Gordon Gee tweeted out a joint statement.
“We…support local control, and 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 statement reads.
West Virginia University and Marshall University do not support statewide campus carry and favor local control. @MarshalluPres and I wrote this letter to the state senate judiciary committee to share our thoughts on Senate Bill 10. https://t.co/6DgBbNpCYS
— E. Gordon Gee (@gordongee) January 18, 2023
“Whether it is mental health challenges facing some students, discussion about grades, recruitment of new students and faculty, or the protection of open and honest debate of ideas, we are concerned about inserting firearms into these types of situations,” they said.
The statement also asked that if such a bill were passed, that it include best practices and safeguards related to campus carry as established in other states, such as not allowing concealed carry at venues with more than 1,000 spectators, in laboratories with hazardous substances or in campus day cares.
Many of the listed restrictions, including the above, are already included in the body of the bill.
A revised version of SB 10 was reported to the Senate at large, and is expected to be taken up on first reading Friday, Jan. 20.
Four similar bills, one in the Senate and three in the House, have been introduced so far this session primarily under the title “The Campus Self-Defense Act.”