Campus carry is dead; time to move on

March 10, 2019

The so-called campus carry bill was presumed dead for this legislative session now that a West Virginia Senate committee rejected it by a vote of 7 to 9 Wednesday evening. Committee members yielded to public sentiment that people would prefer having law enforcement protecting their safety on campus rather than everyday people carrying concealed weapons.

House Bill 2519, dubbed the Campus Self Defense Act, said its purpose was to allow a person who has a concealed carry permit to carry a deadly weapon on the campus and in the buildings of public colleges and universities in the state. The bill said violence against disarmed law-abiding citizens is increasing, and allowing firearms on campus will enable people to protect themselves.

As the House of Delegates passed the bill and sent it on to the Senate, college officials and students mobilized against it. University and college presidents said such a law would make their campuses less safe and would drive up costs for additional police and other security measures. Student spokespeople echoed the safety concerns. Counselors and faculty talked about how many college students are immature and could pose an added threat in risky situations, such as when drinking of alcohol had taken place, if more guns were available on campus.

Their sentiment carried the day — for now.

College campuses are not the only places that prohibit firearms. Many workplaces do, including the Capitol itself. For many people on campus, the campus is their workplace, and they want the same assurance as other people that one of their coworkers will not try to settle something with a gun.

True, a “Gun-Free Zone” sign alone will not deter a person intent on shooting up a workplace. Concealed carry holders have a point when they say mass shootings tend to occur in gun-free zones. When seconds count, police are minutes away, they say. And sometimes the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, they say.

West Virginia has been fortunate in that it has avoided events such as what happened at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, when a student shot 49 people with two pistols, killing 32 and wounding 17. Several others were injured trying to escape. It was the deadliest school shooting in American history. But such events are rare, and opponents of campus carry are correct to say you are more likely to die on campus in any number of ways rather than in a shooting.

Will campus carry come up again? Probably. But why? The public has spoken. For the most part, employees of the state’s colleges and universities don’t want guns in their workplaces, and most students apparently don’t want to attend classes with students who carry.

The carrying and use of firearms is one of the most divisive issues in America today. For a large percentage of people, this issue is one of absolutes with no room for compromise or even discussion.

For now the issue is settled. More people want guns off campus than on campus. People at colleges and universities have made it clear they want the same rules pertaining to firearms that public schools have and, yes, the Legislature itself has.

Unless something changes, bringing this back next year will be another waste of time in a Legislature whose time is limited.