Campus carry gun bill advances, but not without opposition

Jan. 25—A bill that would allow licensed college students in West Virginia to carry a firearm on campus passed the Senate 29-4 on Tuesday and has been sent to the House.

But some presidents of colleges and universities in the state are not on board, saying the bill could have unintended consequences and be costly.

Senate Bill 10, the Campus Self-Defense Act, would allow and regulate "the carrying of a concealed pistol or revolver by a person who holds a current license to carry a concealed deadly weapon on the property of a public institution of higher education."

West Virginia is a state that does not require a concealed carry license in general, but obtaining the license is required in this bill.

The bill also includes restrictions on where a firearm can and cannot be carried.

For example, the conceal carry right would not include at an organized event taking place at a stadium or arena with a capacity of more than 1,000 spectators; at a daycare facility located on the property of the state institution of higher education; in the secure area of any building used by a law-enforcement agency on the property of the state institution for higher education; or in an area of the property of the state institution of higher education that has adequate security measures in place to ensure that pistols or revolvers are not carried by the public into the area.

Students would also not be allowed to carry a weapon in "sole occupancy offices," like an instructor's office or in residence halls except common areas such as lounges, dining areas and study areas.

College and universities must also provide either a secure location for the storage of a pistol or revolver in at least one of the institution's on-campus residence halls or make available an appropriate safe that may be installed in a resident's room in any of the institution's on-campus residence halls.

A fee can be charged for the use of a secure storage location.

Another provision is that when a licensed student carries a weapon, they "may not carry a pistol or revolver which is partially or wholly visible, or intentionally or knowingly display a firearm in plain view of another person in a way or manner to cause, or threaten, a breach of the peace, regardless of whether the firearm is holstered."

If passed, the bill will not go into effect until July 1, 2024, giving schools enough time to map out a plan of action as well as meet all the stipulations.

But Concord University President Kendra Boggess joined the presidents of West Virginia State and Shepherd to sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to take another look before they leap.

Although they "strongly support the Second Amendment," the presidents said they have "serious reservations" about safety as well as "financial burdens" related to campus storage and other stipulations.

They also expressed concern about mental health issues being seen in higher education after after the pandemic, as well as the possibility of increased suicides.

"Introducing firearms into this already challenging environment could have unintended consequences," the letter said.

Both WVU and Marshall also expressed concern about the legislation.

Del. Doug Smith, R-Mercer County and sponsor of a companion bill on the House side, said he understands the concern, but will support the bill.

"I fully support SB 10 and I am a co-sponsor on the House companion bill HB2633 (Relating to the Campus Self Defense Act)," he said. "I know that a number of the higher education organizations have come out against the passage of this bill for various reasons which include concerns with safety and funding of the implementation and that allowing Campus Carry is a change in the way they operate. I understand some people fear change because it means that outcomes are unknown."

But Smith used a previous change in state gun rights as a bellwether related to the concern.

"When West Virginia passed the law to allow constitutional carry (without a permit), opponents warned that there would be more violence to the extent West Virginia would be the Wild West," Smith said. "That did not happen and I believe we will work through the challenges of making Campus Carry the law."

Del. Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer County and House Majority Whip, said he has not yet read the Senate version of the bill but will "generally" support it.

— Contact Charles Boothe at

Contact Charles Boothe at