The National Rifle Association was excited at the end of last month – its Institute for Legislative Action reported on what was happening in the West Virginia legislature:
West Virginia has hit the ground running. With session having started only two weeks ago, three pro-gun bills have already been introduced. Two of these bills expand where a person can possess their firearm, while the other seeks to reduce fees for obtaining a concealed carry license in the state of West Virginia.
One of those bills is moving along. Yesterday, the House Judiciary held a hearing on HB 2519, the Campus Self Defense Act. As David Beard of the Morgantown Dominion Post describes it:
The bill would allow, with specified exceptions, people with concealed carry permits to carry weapons on college campuses.
Most of the speakers attending the session were against the bill. Most notable was West Virginia State's president. As this morning’s Charleston Gazette-Mail notes:
“We stand in solidarity to oppose HB 2519, for the safety of our students and our campuses continue to be our top priority,” said West Virginia State University President Anthony Jenkins, speaking on behalf of all state college presidents.
According to other speakers, the bill would also raise costs for the state schools:
Bill opponents said it could be a sizable burden for already financially strapped colleges, since it would require hiring additional law enforcement personnel and upgrading security checkpoints.
“We will have to look at every call on campus as a situation where a firearm may be involved,” said William Chedester, chief of police at West Virginia University. He said his department would have to increase staffing and security measures to comply with the bill.
Concord’s Dean of Students Sarah Beasley was among those who raised the issue of the emotional vulnerability of college students and issues with suicide attempts. She said a survey showed that 98 percent of Concord students feel safe on campus, and the possibility of their schoolmates toting guns and accidental shootings makes them feel less safe.
The bill does provide for some exceptions: schools could forbid concealed weapons in 1500-person stadiums/arenas, daycare facilities, and at student or employee disciplinary hearings.
At the hearing, an NRA lobbyist defended the bill:
“This bill simply empowers men and women to protect themselves from violent attacks,” said National Rifle Association lobbyist Art Thomm, who said attackers have targeted college campuses where individuals are known to be unarmed.
The bill has 11 sponsors, two of which are Democrats. Local delegates sponsoring the bill include a local Ogden favorite, Republican Pat McGeehan, and Democrat Joseph Canestraro who both represent Handcock and part of Brooke. (I wonder if they’ve talked to the presidents of WV Northern CC or West Liberty about this.)
Last year, when I blogged about a similar bill, I included part of a Gazette-Mail editorial that pointed out the legislative hypocrisy. It still applies:
And, as always, when talking about guns and West Virginia legislators, let’s not forget that those legislators — while insisting that the solution to every safety and security problem is more guns everywhere — refuse to allow guns where they work, inside the state Capitol. A move to do so a few years ago in the House of Delegates — made by a pro-gun-control lawmaker to highlight her colleagues’ hypocrisy — was resoundingly defeated.