By Matthew Young, RealWV
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “We are already terrified on campus as is, and we don’t need more guns to exacerbate that. This bill is like throwing kerosene on a wildfire, and it is appalling that we even need to say that while there is still blood on the ground at Michigan State.”
That’s what Marshall University student E. Bowen told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, during a public hearing regarding SB 10, the “Campus Self-Defense Act.”
“How many more people have to die for y’all to act accordingly?” Bowen asked. “Trust that we will not forget how casually you have disregarded our safety and wellbeing in favor of profit and political gain. Shame on you.”
The “Campus Self-Defense Act” – also referred to as “Campus Carry” – which seeks “to allow persons who are holders of concealed handgun permits to carry concealed on the campuses of the state’s institutions of higher education,” has been denounced by both West Virginia University (WVU), and Marshall University. Additionally, Concord and Shepherd universities have expressed safety concerns should the bill become law. The bill was passed in the Senate on Jan. 24 by a vote of 29 to four.
Prof. Chris White, who is also a former United States Marine infantryman, told the committee, “There are two institutions in this country that require you to earn your Second Amendment rights: the military and law enforcement. There are many months of training that military and law enforcement officers have to go through to earn that right to carry those weapons in public.”
“Every single moment that a weapon is in the hands of military or a police officer is controlled,” White continued. “None of those safety controls would be imposed on our students, or anybody else who comes onto our campus. What I do know is that this will increase accidental discharges because the students and other people there are not trained the same way as military and law enforcement.”
Dr. Zachary Campbell with the Citizens Defense League spoke in favor of SB 10, saying, “To get a concealed carry permit in the State of West Virginia requires a mental and criminal background check at both the state and federal level. It requires an InstaCheck as well, and it requires certification by an instructor.”
One of the primary points raised in opposition of the bill was that the State Capitol Building – itself a public facility – prohibits the carrying of firearms on the property.
Eloise Elliot, the mother of a WVU teaching assistant, said, “The West Virginia Legislature doesn’t want or allow guns in the State Capital. Please give the same consideration to students, parents, grandparents, teachers, professors, staff and law enforcement who don’t want guns in our classrooms.”
Much like Dr. Campbell, Art Thomm, a representative of the West Virginia Chapter of the NRA, expressed his support of SB 10.
“Our loved ones deserve the right to defend themselves from a deadly attack in a gun-free zone without having to make the choice of employment, education, or their life,” Thomm said. “I understand there are students and faculty members here today who may believe that it’s a safer option to not have firearms present. Guns are currently legal on campus in West Virginia, and they have been. We’re protecting people from choosing between work, education, or your life.”
Martec Washington, Vice President of the WV Democratic Black Caucus, began by asking the committee, “Are we serious?”
“You (legislators) keep doing things that are literally killing us,” Washington added. “You say that you care and you value life – prove it. Stop doing things like this. Stop enticing people to even feel like they have a right to take my life while I’m simply trying to learn and trying to better myself.”
Olivia Dowler, legislative affairs liaison for WVU Student Government, was equally critical of SB 10, saying, “Choosing to legalize campus carry is irresponsible, and puts all students, faculty and staff in harm’s way.”
“Some of the deadliest school shootings had good guys with guns on scene,” Dowler continued. “How many more Americans and West Virginians must die before a change is made? It is selfish of the legislature to ignore the countless pleas of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and parents. Presidents of many universities have authored public letters of opposition. I’m not sure how much more clearly it can be said – guns are killing us.”
“It’s often invoked in the West Virginia legislature that they’re creating a place to live, work, and raise a family,” Dowler concluded. “It (SB 10) doesn’t create a place to live – it creates a place to die.”
House Judiciary will hear further discussion regarding SB 10 during their regularly scheduled committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.