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WVU students gather to air concerns about campus carry legislation

MORGANTOWN — A group of WVU students gathered in front of the Mountainlair on Monday to voice their concerns about the campus carry bill — SB 10 — working its way through the Legislature.

“We feel very strongly this would be a threat to student safety,” said Keeley Wildman, a graduate student in social work. “We think this will bring further violence to our campus.”

Morgantown High student Aaron Reedy chalks a message on the sidewalk.

Wildman read a letter written by her sister, who was a student at Phillip Barbour High School in Philippi on Aug. 25, 2015, when a 14-year-old freshman brought a gun to school and held a class hostage.

It was the scariest day of her life, her sister wrote. Shortly after lunch, a code red was called and armed police officers in riot gear were running toward the school. She joined others to hide in closet. “Fortunately no one was killed that day. However, many lives were changed for the worse.”

Her sister never felt safe at school after that, and those fears came with her to WVU. She suffered panic attacks and anxiety, was advised to withdraw from all her classes and is being treated for PTSD.

Wildman urged fellow students who are concerned about the bill to contact their delegates and make their objections known. “If you don’t think that guns belong on campus, make sure you make your voice heard and make that known.”

Tiara Rowe, a senior political science major, recalled a student suicide on campus. She said the state should recognize and deal with mental health issues before allowing 30,000 students to carry guns.

People with mental health issues may be easily triggered, she said, and more guns will increase the likelihood of a shooting. “I feel unsafe and I’m sure my peers feel unsafe.”

And if anyone feels unsafe after the bill takes effect, she said, maybe make your concerns known by not going to class. “Sometimes silence is the answer.”

The bill

SB 10, the Campus Self Defense Act, would allow concealed carry on campuses for those ages 18-21 holding provisional licenses and those 21 and up with standard licenses. It also would apply to residents of other states who may legally carry in West Virginia under reciprocity agreements.

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 bill contains 12 exceptions where institutions may continue to ban concealed carry.

SB 10 is in House Judiciary. The committee will hold a public hearing on the bill from 9-10 a.m. Wednesday in the House chamber.

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