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After long debate, House passes campus carry bill; it will head to the governor’s office

MORGANTOWN — The Campus Self Defense Act — known widely as the campus carry bill — is on its way to the governor’s office.

The House of Delegates spent about 90 minutes Tuesday debating the Senate’s bill before passing it, 84-13.

With no House amendments, SB 10 now heads to Gov. Jim Justice for approval.

Speaking against the bill, Minority Leader Doug Skaff said he is a gun owner and Second Amendment supporter. But the bill abridges the rights of institutions to respond to problems — as they can regarding such things as alcohol in frat houses, for example.

While supporters cite the Second Amendment, he said, the author of that amendment, James Madison, joined with University of Virginia fellow board member (and UV creator) Thomas Jefferson to sign a resolution banning deadly weapons on the university campus.

Skaff said the bill does nothing to create jobs or attract people here. And 38 of 40 people who spoke at the public hearing on the bill opposed it. On the campaign trail, people told him they’re concerned about roads, taxes, jobs, education, healthcare — not guns on campus. “How is this going to move the needle? … Just because you can pass whatever you want doesn’t mean you should.”

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, posed an unsuccessful amendment on Monday to bar people with provisional concealed carry permits — ages 18-20 — from inclusion in the bill. He repeated his concerns on Tuesday about college students going through a volatile period in their lives being able to properly handle guns, especially under duress in stressful situations.

“Don’t tell me alcohol is going to make people a better shot and more likely to hit the bad guy than the good guy.”

Delegate John Williams, also D-Monongalia, cited a Johns Hopkins School of Education study that showed of 111 mass shootings since 1966, only 13 took place in gun-free zones. The study said campus carry increases violence on campuses.

Fights, suicide attempts and reckless behavior are more common than opportunities for armed students to stop rampages, he said the study revealed. Not every student will be Clint Eastwood or Timothy Dalton (James Bond); and armed students are more likely to make it more complicated for law enforcement that arrives on scene.

Delegate Shawn Fluharty, D-Ohio, said, “I can’t help but notice we’re here for campus carry, not Capitol carry,” referring to bills to allow guns in the Capitol that always fail to move.

Guns are more likely to abridge freedom of expression, he said, by fostering fear.

And Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, again told her story of when she was sexually assaulted at the University of Louisiana one night while walking back from tutoring basketball athletes. Unable to contact her parents, she had to cope on her own. “If I had access to a firearm, I would not be with you today.”

Speaking for the bill, Delegate Larry Kump, R-Berkeley, referred to the frequent discussions about local control spurred by the bill. “The best local control is the individual’s rights protected under our United States Constitution. … The Second Amendment is my gun permit.”

Delegate Henry Dillon, R-Wayne, referred to his campaign slogan, “Guns save lives.” A father of four young children, he said he often doesn’t sleep well at night, but that has nothing to do with his votes.

“If I voted anything but green for this bill, I would have a great deal of difficulty going to sleep tonight,” knowing he didn’t give his kids every opportunity to defend themselves or respond to an emergency.

Delegate Mike Honaker, R-Greenbrier, a veteran and retired law enforcement officer, again told his story of being on site after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. “It was ugly, absolutely ugly,” and disturbing, horrific and sad.

At home that night, he had to wash the dead students’ blood off of his shoes, and hesitated throwing away the paper towels, feeling like he might be throwing away a portion of those students.

The bill doesn’t put guns on campuses, he said. It tells free, law-abiding citizens they have a Constitutional right to carry.

“I fear that if I do not support this legislation, and it happens again, washing their blood off of my shoes will not compare to washing their blood off my hands, because I disarmed them when the wolf came.”

And Delegate Ty Nestor, R-Randolph, told how he reversed his position on the bill. He first opposed it, concerned about mixing alcohol, guns and youthful instability on college campuses.

But the bill gained more protections as it evolved, and Honaker’s story of Virginia Tech first related in committee changed his mind. “It’s a tough call for me,” but it’s the right decision.

One Democrat, David E. Pritt, Fayette, voted yes. Two Republicans, Speaker Roger Hanshaw and Erikka Storch, Ohio, voted no.

SB 10 sets the parameters for people with concealed handgun permits to carry on public college and university campuses and includes directives for weapons storage in dorms and other buildings, and exceptions where the schools may still prohibit weapons.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp