A measure that would allow people with valid gun licenses to carry concealed weapons on West Virginia college campuses passed the House on Wednesday and was sent on the state Senate for final approval.
The vote of 59-41 advanced a measure staunchly opposed by West Virginia education officials, including those at Shepherd University.
The NRA backed the bill and touted it as ensuring “that law-abiding adults are not stripped of their right to self-defense when they cross an arbitrary boundary onto a college campus.” Proponents also said the measure would allow people to protect themselves from violence on campuses. Visible weapons will not be permitted under the measure. Current state law does not prohibit carrying of a defensive firearm on campus, but institution policy could lead to expulsion or termination of employment
The Higher Education Commission estimated the measure could cost state colleges and universities $11.6 million for additional police officers, security guards, protective gear, weapons, metal detectors, lockers, security cameras, door locks and training. Some institutions also predicted a drop in student enrollment if guns are allowed
on campuses. The measure will require universities to provide a space for students to store firearms.
The measure includes exemptions stipulating where handguns are banned that include organized events with more than 1,000 attending. Guns also are excluded from campus day care sites.
Officials from universities across the state spoke out when the bill was first presented to the House of Delegates. A hearing was held on the bill in which 30 of the 41 attendees opposed it. One of these attendees was West Virginia University’s Vice President Robert Alsop.
“WVU believes gun policy and gun control should be at the local level,” Alsop said. “However, if the bill is put into the place, WVU will be required to hire more security and buy more security equipment to protect our students.”
West Virginia is one of 22 states that allows universities to choose whether to allow concealed carry of firearms on their campuses. Currently there are nine states that require universities to allow concealed carry on their campuses.