Letter shared with members of the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, January 18.
Dear Members of the West Virginia Senate Judiciary Committee,
We write to share with the committee our thoughts on Senate Bill 10, a bill that would limit the authority of our Board of Governors to regulate the presence of firearms on our campuses. We understand that individuals, on both sides of this issue, are passionate about their positions and we believe that all voices are important and should be heard.
We, at West Virginia University and Marshall University, support local control, and we believe that our boards of governors are best suited to decide whether guns should be permitted on campus. We therefore do not support statewide campus carry.
Whether it is mental health challenges facing some students, discussion about grades, recruitment of new students and faculty, or the protection of open and honest debate of ideas, we are concerned about inserting firearms into these types of situations.
We understand that there is significant support for campus carry in the Legislature. If the public policy preference of the Legislature is to permit guns on campus, we hope that the Legislature considers best practices and safeguards from other states with existing campus carry laws, such as Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. From a public policy perspective, and looking towards the safety of our campus, we believe the following considerations should be included in a bill which follows the best practices and safeguards related to campus carry:
/ Only concealed carry permit holders would be able to have a gun on campus and in buildings.
/ Guns would not be permitted at venues or arenas with a capacity of more than 1,000 spectators.
/ Guns would not be permitted at daycare facilities.
/ Guns would not be permitted in secure areas of any building used by law enforcement.
/ Guns would not be permitted in areas where colleges and universities have implemented adequate security measures.
/ Guns would not be permitted in disciplinary hearings.
/ Guns would not be permitted in workshops and laboratories where high hazardous and flammable substances are housed and animal laboratories.
/ Guns would not be permitted in specifically designated areas in which patient-care or mental health counseling is being provided.
/ Guns would not be permitted in areas used exclusively by K-12 or private entities.
/ Guns would not be permitted in areas where otherwise prohibited by state and federal law.
/ Guns would not be permitted in individual offices not open to the public.
/ Guns would not be permitted in campus residence halls, except for common areas, such as lounges, dining areas, and study areas.
/ The implementation should be delayed until July 1, 2024, to give adequate time for institutions to educate and prepare faculty, staff, students, and their families.
We note that these best practices and safeguards are contained in Senate Bill 10, and we thank the bill sponsors for including these provisions and the Legislature for considering them. While we support local control, we will continue to work with our legislators to create environments that are safe for our campus communities.
E. Gordon Gee Brad D. Smith
West Virginia University Marshall University