WV House passes campus carry bill

February 28, 2019

CHARLESTON — A long, confusing, confounding day at the West Virginia House of Delegates ended Wednesday night with passage of the controversial campus carry bill, just hours after it looked to have been killed by a procedural move earlier in the day.

The bill (House Bill 2519) passed 59-41 late Wednesday, with proponents contending it would allow students to protect themselves from violence on campus.

“That’s exactly what the opposition wants: Send your children out into the world unprotected,” said Del. Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh. “We can give our students, our young people, the ability to protect themselves.”

Opponents of the measure cited widespread opposition to the bill from college administrators, faculty, law enforcement officers, students and parents.

“I really believe that there is just as much opposition to this bill from higher education and the general public as there was to Senate Bill 451 from K-12 public education and the general public,” Del. Dave Pethel, D-Wetzel, said of the bill, comparing it to the rejected omnibus education bill. He said Wednesday was only the second time he voted against an NRA-backed bill.

The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.

The passage vote came hours after the House Rules Committee, made up of House leadership and minority party leaders, voted 10-8 Wednesday morning to move the bill to the inactive calendar — a seemingly fatal move since Wednesday was the last

day the House could pass House bills this session.

Its fate seemed to be sealed on the House floor when House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, made a motion to move the bill back to the active calendar, a motion that required a two-thirds majority under House rules.

Summers’ motion failed on a 59-40 vote. A motion to reconsider that vote Wednesday afternoon failed on a voice vote, a procedural measure seemingly locking in the earlier rejection.

However, the House Rules Committee met for a second time Wednesday afternoon and voted 11-9 to put the campus carry bill back on the active calendar.

During that meeting, House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said he had determined that under House rules, the action of that committee would take precedence over the House floor vote — a ruling challenged by Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia.

House Judiciary Chairman John Shott, R-Mercer, who made the motion in the Rules Committee to move the bill to inactive status, was disappointed by the reversal of course.

“It’s obvious the NRA has great sway over a lot of our members and was able to work behind the scenes and get some people to change their votes,” he said.

Shott said he did not believe there were any additional viable procedural options to stop passage of the bill in the House.

“It appears the NRA has so many people terrified of going against them,” he said.

Shott said he opposes the bill because he believes it is legislative micromanagement and will be costly for colleges and universities to implement.

“The only people who want it are the NRA and the (Citizens Defense League),” Shott said after the initial committee vote. “The universities certainly don’t want it.”

Shott, a long-serving delegate who cast his first “no” vote on a pro-gun bill last session on legislation to require private businesses to allow firearms in vehicles on company parking lots, has been adamantly opposed to the campus carry bill, saying it would put an undue financial burden on colleges and universities in his district.

In the evening session, delegates methodically rejected a series of amendments intended to moderate the bill by expanding exceptions to the legislation, including 10 offered by Shott, modeled after what he described as “reasonable” campus carry law in the state of Texas.

“My attitude is, if you’ve got a bill you hate, you try to make it more bearable,” he said.

West Virginia University administrators, recognizing the bill has strong support in both houses, has been trying to add a number of exemptions to the bill to make it more palatable.

“Legislative support for this bill is overwhelming — approximately 2-to-l in support,” WVU President Gordon Gee said in a statement. “In light of this broad legislative support for the campus carry legislation, we have worked diligently to get exceptions to the broad scope of the legislation.”

In the afternoon Rules Committee meeting, Del. Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, changed from a “no” to “yes” vote and House Education Chairman Danny Hamrick, R-Harrison, who had been absent from the morning meeting, voted “yes.”

Earlier, Hamrick had been chastised by Summers for missing the first vote.

“We need you in Rules when we have Rules,” she said angrily.

Hanshaw, who apparently had not voted as committee chairman in the morning session, was recorded as voting “yes” in the afternoon meeting, providing the overall margin on the second vote.