House approves Judiciary campus carry bill, sends to full House

House approves Judiciary campus carry bill, sends to full House

Feb. 15-MORGANTOWN — The campus carry bill is headed to the House floor and is expected to pass after the House Judiciary clears it in a voice vote Wednesday afternoon.

SB 10, the Campus Self Defense Act, sets parameters for people with concealed handgun permits to walk on public college and university campuses and includes exceptions where schools can still ban weapons.

Committee counsel explained that the property owner or person in charge of the property has the right to restrict the opening or concealment of the property under the governing state code. It is now not illegal to carry a concealed weapon on campus but if the person carrying the gun is asked to drop or put the gun down and refuses, that person may be charged.

Eleven states have campus carry, it said, while West Virginia is among 20 others that have no laws that prohibit carry on campus. Here institutions have policies for teachers and students.

Chris White, a criminal justice professor at Marshall University and a Marine veteran, said concealed carry permit training is less rigorous than military or police training and does not equip a person to respond to a stressful situation. The military and police live in a culture of firearms safety. “Make it night.”

He said it’s too early to see evidence of any increase in problems in states that carry campuses. Violence did not escalate. He hopes the problem could be an accidental discharge.

According to Jim McJunkin with the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, firearm deaths are the second leading cause of death for 1-19 year olds in West Virginia, and 60% of those are suicides. Suicide is the leading cause of death among college-aged people, and the risk triples with access to guns.

Travis Mollohan, WVU’s director of government relations, said they’ve reached out to other universities since campus carry started a few years ago. “There is no empirical evidence that one campus is safer or more dangerous.” Based on 2019 numbers, they expect it to cost about $350,000 to prepare the campus for campus carry since they already have a large police force. It will not be the same for other institutions.

During closing remarks before the vote, Rep. Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, a military and police veteran, said, “Being in a gun battle changes you forever. Taking another person’s life must kill a small part of you.”

He was there for that mass shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, he said. He knows what it’s like to walk into a hallway and classroom where 31 people are lying dead. He goes home at night with blood on his shoes. He had to inform some parents.

And he knows it’s likely that people on one side or the other will get the “I told you so trophy.” But, he said, “I cannot prohibit another free, law-abiding citizen from carrying a firearm to be able to protect himself or others.”

Representative Evan Hansen. D-Monongalia, said everyone in the room respects the Second Amendment, but it has boundaries, as reflected in the bill’s 12 exceptions. But the bill doesn’t draw the line in the right place. Lack of training and accidents will result in problems. “On balance, I think it will make people less safe rather than safer.”

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