University presidents, student government oppose ‘campus carry’ bill

The presidents of West Virginia University and Marshall University sent a letter to lawmakers voicing their opposition to the state’s Campus Self-Defense Act.

WVU’s Student Government Association also wrote a proclamation that claims it is ‘committed to prioritizing the interests and safety of the student body.’

Universities are speaking out against a “campus carry” bill that recently passed in West Virginia. 

State Senator Rupie Phillips is the main sponsor of Senate Bill 10, or the Campus Self-Defense Act, which amended laws “authorizing regulation or restriction on the carrying of concealed pistols or revolvers in certain circumstances or areas of an institution of higher education.”

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West Virginia University (WVU) President E. Gordon Gee wrote a letter to state lawmakers in collaboration with Marshall University President Brad D. Smith. They argued against statewide campus carry in favor of boards of governors regulating firearms on their campuses. 

The letter said that, if the bill does pass, Gee and Smith “hope that the Legislature considers best practices and safeguards from other states with existing campus carry laws, such as Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas.” Their recommendations included prohibiting guns from disciplinary hearings and all areas of a residence hall except for common areas. 

Regarding WVU’s stance on the issue, April Kaull, the school’s Executive Director of Communications, told Campus Reform“This joint letter from West Virginia University President Gordon Gee and Marshall University President Brad Smith represents our position and we have nothing further to add at this time.”

Similarly, Marshall University’s Director of University Communications, Leah Payne, told Campus Reform, “We have nothing further to add at this time.”

WVU’s Student Government Association (SGA) also released a proclamation opposing the Campus Self-Defense Act. 

The proclamation referred to the SGA’s mission of protecting the “personal freedoms and general welfare of the students within [the] University.”

“West Virginia University’s Student Government Association is committed to prioritizing the interests and safety of the student body of West Virginia University,” the proclamation reads.

WVU student Samantha Herold, who interned with SGA in the past, revealed that she is “conflicted” about campus carry. 

“I am for open carry,” Herold told Campus Reform, though she agrees with the statements from WVU’s president and SGA. 

“Why do we need to have ‘children’ allowed to have guns on campus?” Herold continued. “If I knew my roommate had a gun I would be a little concerned about my safety.”

She said that there are “knives and pepper spray to be used for self defense,” but a gun is “crazy” for a 20-year-old. Herold concluded, however, by writing, “If a student feels the need to be protected then so be it.” 

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“[O]verall, would I want to campus carry for myself?” she asked. Herold said that, if other students feel the need to carry a firearm, then “it’s OK” for them to do so. 

Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment. This article will be updated accordingly. 

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