The WV Campus Carry Bill: What to Know

Summary of WV campus carry bill - WV Cover Photo

Summary of the WV Campus Carry Bill – What is it?

On March 1st, 2023, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, signed into law Senate Bill 10, the “Campus Self-Defense Act,” allowing law-abiding gun owners to carry concealed firearms on college and university campuses in West Virginia. This act takes effect July 1, 2024, and makes West Virginia the 12th “campus carry law” state in the U.S.

A few things the law doesn’t allow:

  • Open carry of firearms on college and university campuses
  • The carry of firearms where more than 1,000 people are gathered (such as university stadiums or concert halls)
  • The carry of firearms on on-campus daycare centers

Some additional allowances and exceptions for colleges and universities were granted, including the ability to restrict weapons where mental health counseling and patient care are administered. Institutes of higher education can also regulate guns in residence halls and dorms, but they must provide a secure weapon-storage spot (such as safes in dorms rooms) in at least one on-campus residence hall.

Summary of WV campus carry bill - Gov. Jim Justice signs
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signs the WV Campus Carry bill into law. (Image Source: WV News)

How Did Universities Respond to Senate Bill 10?

Prior to Senate Bill 10’s passing, West Virginia college and university administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents tried to reach and influence the governor through a petition. Additional letters were drafted by university presidents, and committees were formed to try to get ahead of the situation in case the bill became law.

One WVU freshman in an interview with 12WBOY cited concerns about alcohol use coupled with the increased potential for gun violence if campus carry were to be permitted. The student was also worried about the possible violent recourse, via guns, of students who received bad test scores. Higher education administrators had previously also referenced mental health issues among college students as a valid reason to veto the law.

Of course, proponents of the law were also vocal as well, advocating for 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens in the Mountain State.

After the Act was signed into law on March 1st, Gordon Gee, President of West Virginia University issued a letter to the WVU community. In this letter he summarized the West Virginia Self-Defense Act, including the date the Act will go into effect.

Summary of WV campus carry bill - university presidents
WVU President Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad D. Smith came out against the WV Campus Carry bill in memos to their respective student bodies. (Image Sources: Sports Illustrated, The Parthenon)

Gee, who was opposed to the bill, reiterated his commitment to safety as a priority for the university. He also shared that his administration has analyzed universities in other states where there has been similar legislation – to understand how they handle safety on their campuses.

Finally, Gee introduced the creation of a “Campus Safety Group,” a committee that will develop and disseminate suggestions and protocols for the safety of the WVU community in light of the bill getting passed.

Marshall University’s President, Brad D. Smith, distributed a similar memo on March 1st. He, too, acknowledged the utmost importance of safety for the Marshall campus, and he spoke of a committee within the university’s Division of Operations that would be creating and providing recommendations before the Act’s effective date.

Other States That Allow Campus Carry

The 11 states that preceded West Virginia in permitting concealed campus carry are:

Note that there are even nuances in some of the states listed above. For instance, special permits or training may be required, or the concealed carry of weapons might be limited to some groups (like faculty and staff) or restricted in certain areas. Before visiting any college or university campus with the intent to carry a concealed weapon, it is essential that you review the campus’ policy to remain a responsible law-abiding citizen and community member.

Sources: WVUToday, Marshall University, Fox News, 12WBOY, PBS

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