The West Virginia legislature has passed campus-carry legislation, which will allow citizens with licenses to carry concealed weapons to possess a pistol or revolver at public institutions of higher education. Senate Bill 10 (SB10) passed the House of Delegates on Tuesday and is expected to be signed by Governor Jim Justice in the next couple weeks.
SB10 establishes “conditions under which persons with a current and valid license to carry a concealed deadly weapon may carry a concealed pistol or revolver at a state” college or university. It mandates that state colleges must provide at least one “secure location for the storage of a pistol or revolver” in an on-campus residence hall and prohibits schools from restricting firearms in public spaces. Exceptions include stadiums, daycare facilities, and disciplinary hearings.
West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad D. Smith objected to the bill, arguing that the decision should be up to university governments rather than the state’s central government.
Students had varying reactions to allowing students and faculty to carry concealed weapons. But even at mostly liberal West Virginia University, 49% of WVU students support the measure. Many students recognize that banning concealed weapons from campus won’t keep criminals from carrying them onto campus anyway. The only people likely to pay attention to a ban on concealed weapons are likely to be those who are law-abiding, and — in some cases — may have valid reasons for carrying a weapon (such as previously having been threatened by someone, such as by an ex-partner who engaged in domestic violence).
A female student at Fairmont University told Mountain State Spotlight that “Changing gun laws isn’t going to stop a criminal from bringing the weapon [on campus]….If I have something that could protect myself or others, then I’m going to do it,” she argued.
Even back when West Virginia was a Democratic bastion in the 1980s, it was anti-gun-control, and even Democratic politicians often belonged to the National Rifle Association. West Virginia, like Maine, is a state known for having high numbers of hunters, historically including many mine workers in their weeks or months off. West Virginia is #5 in the nation for gun possession, with 58.5% of its population known to own firearms.
In Montana, legislators passed similar campus-carry legislation, but it was struck down by the state’s liberal Supreme Court, which argued that Montana’s state constitution gives state college officials exclusive jurisdiction to regulate guns on campus. Observers do not expect a similar ruling from the West Virginia Supreme Court, even in the unlikely event that a legal challenge to West Virginia’s legislation is ever brought.