UPDATE: Bill to allow concealed carry on W.Va. campuses fails

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Image Source: Lucio Eastman / CC BY 2.0 / Pixabay / MGN

Legislation to allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on West Virginia college campuses has been defeated.

The Senate judiciary committee voted Tuesday night by a narrow margin to keep the measure from going to the full Senate. The House of Delegates had passed the bill last week.

Leaders from West Virginia and Marshall universities had opposed the bill. Professors and school staffers had flooded the Capitol to lobby against it.

The bill would have carved out exemptions allowing for universities to ban firearms from stadiums with more than 1,000 seats, campus daycare centers and college law enforcement buildings.

At a public hearing last month, Concord University Police Officer David Eldridge said his department would have to hire 13 additional officers and purchase multiple metal detectors if the bill became law.

UPDATE: 3/4/19 1:50 PM

Nearly 60 students from Concord, Fairmont State and Marshall Universities rallied in front of the Senate chamber Monday morning to protest campus-carry legislation.

They represented OneCampusWV, which reports it has more than 920 members from college campuses across the state.

For about two hours, they chanted and waved signs, then capped their rally with a press conference, just a few hours before Senate Judiciary was slated to take up the bill – HB 2519, the Campus Self Defense Act – during its afternoon meeting.

Matthew Thomas, of Concord, said, “This bill is dangerous plain and simple. … If your kid hits another kid with a stick, you don’t give everyone a stick, You take that stick away.”

He recognizes, he said there are security problems on campuses. “But we cannot expect our students to take care of that themselves. It’s not the student’s job to take care of campus crime. We are there to get an education, not dole out vigilante justice.”

He also cited a common complaint that’s arisen during consideration of the bill: The gun lobby was heard, but no one else. “When were they planning to come to us to ask how we feel about campus carry? Why did we have to come to them to make our voices heard?”

Zac Fancher, a Fairmont State sophomore, echoed that. “I am for the Second Amendment. I am against guns on our college campuses. … Our elected officials in this building are not listening to those who this bill directly affects.”

Haley Fields is president of the Concord Student Government Association. The gun lobby and legislators who support the bill, she said, assert that we need to arm students to make them safer.

In contrast, she cited various statistics and reports. For instance, of 73,938 offenses reported by West Virginia State Police in 2014, only 0.32 percent happened on a campus.

“Why are trying to fix a nonexistent problem with a non-functional solution?” She said suicide attempts are far more common than rampage shootings.

A Higher Education Policy Commission fiscal note puts the statewide cost of the bill at S11.6 million, for “for additional police officers, security guards and other staff, protective gear, weapons, metal detectors, vehicles, body cams, lockers, security cameras, door locks, emergency dispatch equipment, and training,” as the note says.

Fields called that an unfunded mandate that could lead to tuition hikes at campuses that lack the resources, she said, Concord estimates its costs at $700,000.

A couple delegates also appeared to cheer on the students.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said, “I’ve not heard from any college students that want this bill.”

He has heard from students, parents and administrators who oppose it, and from people outside the state who won’t send their kids here if it becomes law.

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said she’s a gun owner who voted against the bill. “Mountaineers are free, but you should be free to walk the campus and not be in fear of not knowing what the person walking on the side of you is holding. That is not fair.”

UPDATE: 03/03/19

Students with 'OneCampusWV', an organization that stands against House Bill 2519 also known as the Campus Carry Act, say they plan to gather outside the State Senate Chamber Monday in hopes legislators will consider their concerns and vote against the bill.

According to the organization, the debate is being led by student government organizations across West Virginia colleges and universities.

They say they plan to meet outside the chamber at 9 A.M. and later knock on legislators' doors.

“We think there's a crisis of leadership in Charleston,” said Zachary Fancher, a Fairmont State University sophomore from Grafton, W.Va.

“Legislators are not listening to us. There will be a lot of unintended consequences to students' safety and security if this bill passes, and we’ll end up paying increased tuition and fees for the security measures colleges will have to implement. No one asked us if we want this.”

The bill passed by a 59-41 vote late Wednesday night.

Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

UPDATE: 02/27/2019

A proposed West Virginia House bill that would allow permit holders to carry concealed guns on all university and college campuses, which was tabled earlier Wednesday, is back on the agenda for state lawmakers.

West Virginia House Communications Director Jared Hunt says House Bill 2519, the Campus Self Defense Act, was placed back onto the House's active calendar for discussion during Wednesday's 7 p.m. session.

Earlier on Wednesday, the House Rules Committee placed the bill on the inactive calendar, effectively killing it.

West Virginia House Delegates would have to pass the bill by the end of the session - midnight on March 9th - for it to move to the Senate.

UPDATE: 02/27/2019, 4:30 p.m.

West Virginia lawmakers have tabled the Campus Carry Bill, House Bill 2519, which was scheduled to have its third and final reading on Wednesday.

House Bill 2519, also know as the Campus Carry Act, was scheduled to have its third and final reading on Wednesday.

Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

The House Rules Committee sets the House's calendar. Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) made a motion to pull the bill off of the calendar. That motion passed.

It would take a two-thirds vote in the full House of Delegates to bring the bill back. Otherwise, there is no way for it to cross over to the Senate and ultimately pass.

House Majority Leader Amy Summers (R-Taylor) filed a motion Wednesday to put the legislation back on the calendar, but it was defeated on 59-40 vote.

At any point, a delegate could make another motion to reconsider the bill. However, that would require lawmakers to convince eight colleagues to flip their votes.

UPDATE: 2/12/2019

Local universities are keeping a close eye on the progress of a bill in the West Virginia Legislature, allowing people with concealed carry permits to carry weapons on campus.

Ohio Valley University is a gun-free campus, and also a private institution.

The House bill would allow concealed carry for state institutions of higher learning.

But OVU Chief of Staff Charles Morris says the school would want to get input from the college community before implementing a concealed carry policy of its own.

"I think what we would want to be concerned about, is what is the overall well-being of our campus, based on the input from, particularly law enforcement officials," Morris said Tuesday. "Since it's become a legal issue with legislation, we'd want our attorneys involved. and be considerate about what our students would want on our campus."

Morris says OVU has its own security staff, and Vienna Police are available to respond to incidents on campus, if necessary.


West Virginia lawmakers have heard public comments on legislation that would require colleges to allow people who have concealed weapons permits to carry weapons on campuses.

The House judiciary committee held a public hearing on the bill Monday.

Concord Police Officer David Eldridge said his department would have to hire 13 additional officers and purchase multiple metal detectors if the bill passes. It would cost the department $726,000 in the first year.

West Virginia University education professor Sara Anderson said concealed weapons on campus would "bring intimidation into the classroom."

National Rifle Association lobbyist Art Thomm said the bill empowers people to protect themselves. He says "denying women their right to self-protection leaves them vulnerable to attack."

Among the bill's exceptions includes daycare centers, campus police headquarters and events in sports arenas with more than 1,500 seats.

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