West Virginia University students debate conceal carry at 'Common Ground Campus' event

The event, "Bridging the Divide," takes place at 7:00 pm at the Gluck Theater.

Campus carry will allow individuals with valid concealed carry licenses to possess a pistol or revolver on public college and university campuses in West Virginia.

Cole Kleppner, a student at West Virginia University (WVU), is organizing a Common Ground round table discussion tonight on the recent legislative passage of campus carry through the state legislature.

The event, “Bridging the Divide,” takes place at 7:00 pm at the Gluck Theater. 

Campus carry will allow individuals with valid concealed carry licenses to possess a pistol or revolver on public college and university campuses in West Virginia. The bill is expected to be signed into law by Governor Jim Justice next week.

[RELATED: West Virginia students and faculty oppose Campus Self-Defense Act]

The text of the legislation stipulates that institutions must provide at least one storage location on campus for resident student firearms, and schools would be prohibited from restricting firearms in most public spaces.

Cole Kleppner, a correspondent for Campus Reform, says that the Common Ground event will have two panelists representing each side of the discussion with the intent of trying “to have a friendly discussion, trying to see each other’s perspectives, trying to get new opinions basically, on what they’re saying to each other to try to find that common ground.”

Common Ground Campus aims to “restor[e] civility by hosting unique events” on campuses designed to navigate difficult topics. An event like this “replaces contentious debate with bridging the divide. Powerful communication and dynamic collaboration are our key elements.”

The Leadership Institute, one of the event sponsors, is the parent organization of Campus Reform. 

Campus carry is “a pretty hot topic issue,” according to Kleppner. “I’d say…the majority of if not everybody on campus [has] at least heard of it. They’re very opinionated on it,” he added.

When asked how campus carry relates to the safety of college students, Kleppner noted that there were two murders in Morgantown, WV, approximately eight miles from campus over the fall 2022 semester.

In 2022, there were a total of 94 violent crimes, including 34 rapes and 54 assaults, as well as nearly 800 property crimes in Morgantown, according to Neighborhood Scout.

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I just think that’s important that we’re able to protect ourselves with the proper means” when necessary, Kleppner says. 

Kleppner, who grew up in West Virginia, classifies his home state as “deep red” and sees this as “a long time coming.”

“[E]veryone here grew up with guns,” Kleppner argues. He adds that “over half” of West Virginia residents are registered gun owners.

The Common Ground event at WVU will be taking place on the evening of February 24. Kleppner does not expect that the event will trigger any counterprotest. “We’re trying to promote it as friendly and very neutral,” Kleppner says.