West Virginia Legislature, WVU News

WVU creates Campus Safety Group to advise leaders on implementation of campus carry

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University President Gordon Gee isn’t going at it alone when it comes to implementing new campus carry rules.

WVU is forming a Campus Safety Group to advise university leadership on implementation of SB 10, the Campus Self Defense Act.

Gee announced the formation of the group in a letter he issued Wednesday following the governor’s signature of the bill

Rob Alsop, WVU vice president for Strategic Initiatives, talked to The Dominion Post about what the group will do and about some of the university’s thoughts at this time.

The legislation is set to take effect July 1, 2024. 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, such as the football stadium and the Coliseum.

Alsop said the group will be composed of stakeholders from the university and will begin meeting soon.

It will help the leadership understand concerns of the university community, he said, while the leadership provides information to the group how other states – he named Texas, Georgia and Kansas, but there are 11 total – have implemented similar laws.

The group will come up with recommendations to the leadership team and the board of governors, he said. Those could cover a variety of matters, from how WVU communicates where concealed weapon holders can and can’t carry to deciding whether they have safes in dorm rooms or a common locked storage area.

We asked if WVU has considered obtaining lists from the 55 counties of who has permits so they might know who on campus is permitted. The short summary of his answer is that would be unwieldy and difficult, also considering other states with reciprocity.

“Getting that type of list and what we would do with it, I don’t know that’s something that would be one of our top priorities,” he said. “I think what we’re going to do is educate our students, our faculty and staff.” They will also use lessons learned from other states.

When asked how they’ll approach security in dorms, including metal detectors, Alsop said those measures are still being discussed.

“That’s something, as a leadership team, that we’ll work through over the next several months.”

Weapons are currently not allowed in dorms or arenas, he said. “We have a great university police department, we communicate about our rules. And we have not implemented metal detectors in those areas currently.”

They will balance factors relating to safety, security, the business of the university and the Legislature’s recognition of the right to self-defense, he said. Those who carry will have to understand the parameters of where they can carry and where they cannot.

A common topic in this year’s legislative debates, and in prior years, was the possibility of conceal carry permit holders intentionally or unintentionally sparking fear in others and stifling debate on college campuses.

“We have heard that fear, we have herd that perception,” Alsop said. In their conversations with other universities, they have learned those institutions have not seen any incidents where someone carrying a weapon has stifled debate or discussion.

Gee’s letter

Gee’s announcement of the Campus Safety Group came at the bottom of his letter.

He opened by saying, “I know this legislation leaves many feeling uncomfortable and brings forward many questions. Some may be unsure of their safety and well-being. Others may feel relief. We all have several questions as to how this will be implemented on our campuses.”

He continued, “First, let me be clear. Safety has always been a top priority for our campuses, and going forward, it will remain a priority for our campuses.”

Gee stated WVU’s past and current opposition to the bill, but said, “now that this bill has been signed into law, we must come together as a community and work through the implications as it relates to the overall safety of our campuses.”

He noted the safeguards included in the law and the 2024 effective date. “We will use the time wisely.”

Gee said information from safety group will be shared via emails, Mountaineer E-News, Unews and through Campus Conversations. And in the meantime, people may visit safety.wvu.edu for current safety protocols and information.

Tweet David Beard @dbeardtdp Email dbeard@dominionpost.com