Education, Latest News, West Virginia Legislature

Senate passes campus carry bill, sends it to the House of Delegates

MORGANTOWN — The campus carry bill sailed through the Senate on Tuesday, with just one Republican joining the three Democrats to oppose it.

SB 10, the Campus Self Defense Act, now heads to the House where passage is expected, since a similar bill passed there in 2019 by a 59-41 vote — with just a handful of Republicans opposing it — and the GOP supermajority has grown since.

Sen. Mike Caputo, D-Marion, spoke for the opposition when the bill cleared Senate Judiciary and again on Tuesday.

He acknowledged that the bill has 17 sponsors. “I fully expect to be covered in a sea of green when we vote today.”

But, he said, “This thing’s a bad idea.” It’s a bad idea to encourage folks to carry weapons on campus. “I just don’t know why we would want to put our youth in a situation like that.”

He noted the opposition by the WVU Student Government Association and Faculty Senate, and by the presidents of three of the state’s smaller universities who cited both the potential social/emotional hazards of the legislation and its financial burdens.

He referred to his appearance on Hoppy Kercheval’s Talkline last week and the subject of who backed the bill: the gun lobby. Caputo said on the Senate floor, “We’re going to let a lobby group control the rules and regulations of a higher-education facility in West Virginia. That to me does not make good sense.”

Caputo said that he is a gun owner and possesses a concealed carry permit. “I am for responsible gun ownership.” But in the college atmosphere, “Things happen, they just do.”

Judiciary chair Charles Trump, R-Morgan, also observed that half the Senate sponsored the bill, but went through it in detail anyway for his formal presentation of the bill.

The bill will take effect July 1, 2024, and will allow concealed carry of handgun on campuses for those with permits: for those ages 18-21 holding provisional licenses and those 21 and up with standard licenses. Obtaining a license requires training in handgun use and safety. The bill also applies to residents of other states who may legally carry in West Virginia under reciprocity agreements.

Trump stressed that open carry is forbidden in the bill. And while the state as a whole allows constitutional carry — concealed carry without a permit — that is not allowed in this bill. The institution may take action against a student or employee convicted of carrying firearms where not permitted on its property.

The bill contains 12 exceptions where institutions may continue to ban concealed carry and Trump reviewed them in detail. Among them: an organized event at a stadium or arena with a capacity of more than 1,000 spectators; at a campus daycare; at K-12 school-sponsored functions occurring on campus; patient-care areas; and residence halls, except in common areas.

For residence halls, the institution must provide secure storage for weapons, either in in-room safes or a secure storage location, or both. The institution may charge a reasonable fee for this service.

Trump told his colleagues that 11 other states allow some form of campus carry. The list includes red and blue states: Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

Lead sponsor Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, said no one should presume guns aren’t already on college campuses. “You’re fooling yourself, they’re there.”

He’s training his daughter in proper gun use and when she goes to college she’ll have a permit and a gun. “She will have it around her all the time. … This is freedom. This is America.”

He didn’t name the school but said its crime statistics show that 1 in 3 women are sexually assaulted and 10% of those reported being raped. “That’s another reason that we need to get this through, over [to the House], down to the governor to get it signed.”

Sen. Mike Azinger, R-Wood, cited a letter written by two WVU SGA members who voted against the resolution opposing the bill. Those two said in their letter that in a campus survey about the issue, 49% of respondents did not oppose campus carry.

Trump wrapped up the debate saying some people have characterized the bill as allowing the right to campus carry. In fact, the U.S. and state constitutions guarantee the right. “I think this bill is designed to give it life.”

And the bill contains the exceptions the leaders of WVU and Marshall wanted. “We’ve tried very hard to accommodate this and do it in a commonsense way.”

The vote was 29-4. Joining Caputo against it were Democrats Robert Plymale, of Wayne County, Mile Woelfel, of Cabell, and Republican Mike Maroney, of Marshall.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp