After a 29-4 sweep on West Virginia’s Senate floor and Gov. Jim Justice’s signing last Wednesday, permit holders are now allowed to carry concealed guns onto public college and university campuses.
West Virginia joins Texas and ten others to promote concealed campus carry, such as Georgia, Utah, Colorado and Oregon, to name a few, signaling other states take the lead.
Gov. Justice wants the law to “send a message to the world: By God, if you want to mess with us, we can mess back,” according to AP News.
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West Virginia University and Marshall University presidents E. Gordon Gee and Brad D. Smith signed a joint letter publicly opposing the bill, believing campus carry should be decided by the school’s Board of Governors—not the state.
“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,” wrote Gee and Smith in the letter.
They did, however, acknowledge its popularity among the legislature and are asking that the bill be implemented wisely. For example, they asked for guns not to be permitted into public gatherings that hold more than a thousand spectators; residence halls; on-campus daycare facilities and patient care or mental health counseling areas.
The bill seemed to respond to those requests and added some other caveats, such as requiring colleges and universities to provide secure storage of firearms in at least one on-campus residence hall or residence room.
Students in West Virginia expressed mixed emotions at the passage of the bill. One student’s alarming premonition focused on how student “mental health is already downhill,” while another suggested it could promote better self-defense practices that could lead to a safer campus.
Tennessee could be the next state to approve concealed campus carry as two Republican congressmen recently introduced legislation excluding public and private college campuses from a current law that bans most people from carrying guns on school campuses.