UPDATE | W.Va. Senate Judiciary Committee rejects controversial campus carry bill

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WV MetroNews/WSAZ) -- UPDATE 3/5/19 @ 9:20 p.m.
It appears the controversial campus carry bill has died Tuesday night in a Senate committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-7 to reject House Bill 2519, also known as the Campus Carry Act.

Last week, the full House approved the bill.

Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would have taken away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

Opinion was widely divided on the issue, with some college administrators speaking in opposition of the bill. Students we spoke with also were divided.

Unless there's a motion to consider from lawmakers, it appears the legislation is off the table.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/4/19 @ 6 p.m.
Not all students were protesting Monday against the campus carry bill. International student Jack Garwood, who's a senior at Concord University, said he's for the bill.

"There's no information to show that all of the negative things that people claim will happen, will actually happen. That just hasn't been pulling out in reality," Garwood said.

He says, as he sees it now, college campuses and universities are unsafe and he hopes the bill advances so he and his classmates can feel more secure.

Garwood also says that crime has actually decreased in states that have passed the campus carry bill.

"If someone walked into my class and started shooting, I want me and my classmates to have a chance to defend ourselves," Garwood said. "I think if we listen to the states and schools that have actually implemented this and not the fear and misinformation from people who oppose it, we'd actually realize it's not a problem."

The bill's next stop will be the Senate Judiciary committee. The legislation still requires Senate approval to become law.

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/4/19 @ 1:38 p.m.
Close to 60 students from Concord, Fairmont State and Marshall Universities rallied in front of the Senate chamber Monday morning to protest the Campus Carry Bill.

They represented OneCampusWV, which reports is has more than 920 members from college campuses across the state.

For about two hours, they chanted and waved signs, then capped their rally with a press conference, just a few hours before Senate Judiciary was slated to take up the bill – HB 2519, the Campus Self Defense Act – during its afternoon meeting.

Matthew Thomas, of Concord, said, “This bill is dangerous plain and simple. … If your kid hits another kid with a stick, you don’t give everyone a stick, You take that stick away.”

He recognizes, he said there are security problems on campuses. “But we cannot expect our students to take care of that themselves. It’s not the student’s job to take care of campus crime. We are there to get an education, not dole out vigilante justice.”

He also cited a common complaint that’s arisen during consideration of the bill: The gun lobby was heard, but no one else. “When were they planning to come to us to ask how we feel about campus carry? Why did we have to come to them to make our voices heard?”

Zac Fancher, a Fairmont State sophomore, echoed that. “I am for the Second Amendment. I am against guns on our college campuses. … Our elected officials in this building are not listening to those who this bill directly affects.”

Haley Fields is president of the Concord Student Government Association. The gun lobby and legislators who support the bill, she said, assert that we need to arm students to make them safer.

In contrast, she cited various statistics and reports. For instance, of 73,938 offenses reported by West Virginia State Police in 2014, only 0.32 percent happened on a campus.

“Why are trying to fix a nonexistent problem with a non-functional solution?” She said suicide attempts are far more common than rampage shootings.

A Higher Education Policy Commission fiscal note puts the statewide cost of the bill at S11.6 million, for “for additional police officers, security guards and other staff, protective gear, weapons, metal detectors, vehicles, body cams, lockers, security cameras, door locks, emergency dispatch equipment, and training,” as the note says.

Fields called that an unfunded mandate that could lead to tuition hikes at campuses that lack the resources, she said, Concord estimates its costs at $700,000.

A couple delegates also appeared to cheer on the students.

Delegate Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said, “I’ve not heard from any college students that want this bill.”

He has heard from students, parents and administrators who oppose it, and from people outside the state who won’t send their kids here if it becomes law.

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, said she’s a gun owner who voted against the bill. “Mountaineers are free, but you should be free to walk the campus and not be in fear of not knowing what the person walking on the side of you is holding. That is not fair.”

Keep checking the WSAZ App and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 3/3/19 @ 3:45 p.m.
Students with 'OneCampusWV', an organization that stands against House Bill 2519 also known as the Campus Carry Act, say they plan to gather outside the State Senate Chamber Monday in hopes legislators will consider their concerns and vote against the bill.

According to the organization, the debate is being led by student government organizations across West Virginia colleges and universities.

They say they plan to meet outside the chamber at 9 A.M. and later knock on legislators doors.

“We think there's a crisis of leadership in Charleston,” said Zachary Fancher, a Fairmont State University sophomore from Grafton, W.Va. “Legislators are not listening to us. There will be a lot of unintended consequences to students' safety and security if this bill passes, and we’ll end up paying increased tuition and fees for the security measures colleges will have to implement. No one asked us if we want this.”

The bill passed by a 59-41 vote late Wednesday night.

Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

UPDATE 2/27/19 @ 10:45 p.m.
House lawmakers approved the controversial campus carry bill late Wednesday night.

The bill passed by a 59-41 vote.

House Bill 2519 is also known as the Campus Carry Act. Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

Wednesday night's debate was often heated. The bill still needs Senate approval to become law.

On Thursday, Marshall University President Jerome A. Gilbert released the following statement:

“I am extremely disappointed that HB 2519, commonly referred to as the ‘campus carry bill,’ passed the House of Delegates. I’m completely opposed to guns on college campuses and believe we are risking the lives of our students and employees if this legislation is passed.

“I want to reiterate that Marshall University’s administration, Board of Governors, Faculty Senate and Student Government Association have all taken a stand against this bill. This is a very serious issue for our constituents.

“I urge members of the West Virginia Senate to consider the safety of our students, faculty and staff, and hope they will do the right thing and vote against this bill when it comes before them.”



UPDATE 2/27/19 @ 9:50 p.m.
A campus carry bill was brought back to life Wednesday after it was tabled earlier in the day -- appearing it was all but dead.

House Bill 2519, also known as the Campus Carry Act, was scheduled to have its third and final reading on Wednesday. Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

Late in the day Wednesday, the House Rules Committee voted 11-9 in favor of bringing the bill back. House lawmakers are debating that bill Wednesday night.



UPDATE 2/27/19 @ 12:11 p.m.
Lawmakers have tabled a campus carry bill in the West Virginia Legislature.

House Bill 2519, also known as the Campus Carry Act, was scheduled to have its third and final reading on Wednesday. Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

The House Rules Committee sets the House's calendar. Committee Chairman John Shott (R-Mercer) made a motion to pull the bill off of the calendar. That motion passed.

It would take a 2/3 vote in the full House of Delegates to bring the bill back. Otherwise, there is no way for it to cross over to the Senate and ultimately pass.

House Majority Leader Amy Summers (R-Taylor) did file a motion Wednesday to put the legislation back on the calendar, but the vote was 59-40.

At any point, a delegate could make another motion to reconsider the bill. However, that would require lawmakers to convince eight colleagues to flip their votes.



UPDATE 2/26/19 @ 5:30 p.m.
A campus carry bill is making its way through the West Virginia House of Delegates. House Bill 2519, also know as the Campus Carry Act, is set for its third and final reading with amendments pending on Wednesday.

Currently, universities and colleges get to choose whether they allow concealed carry on campus, but this bill would take away that choice, allowing anyone with a concealed carry on campus with the exception of stadiums or arenas.

Del. Jim Butler, R-Mason, is the bill's chief sponsor. He says it will only minimize danger in the event of a shooting incident.

"Well, I think this makes it safer because currently if a shooter wants to go in and do a lot of damage they know that they can go to a gun-free zone knowing that the people can't defend themselves and in this instance, at least they would know there is a possibility that the students and staff members might be armed," Butler said.

WSAZ asked students and professors at Marshall University what they thought about this piece of legislation, and most did not like the idea of guns on campus.

Imani Beard, a senior at Marshall who is against it, she says this bill would allow more room for accidents to happen.

"It is quite difficult to think that people would actually want to have a gun on campus," Beard said.

Dr. Neil Arneson, a professor at Marshall, says he can't imagine carrying a gun to class, adding he doesn't think it would prevent active shooters.

"Any bill that allows our students to be armed is a little bit disturbing," he continued. "Not just students, but anybody could come on campus and start some kind of shooting thing, and there is nothing to stop them now. That just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me."

If the bill passes through the House, it still has to go to the Senate.



UPDATE 2/11/19 @ 8:30 p.m.
West Virginians are already allowed to carry a firearm without a permit, but House Bill 2519, also called the Campus Self Defense Act, would let those who have a concealed carry license to do so on college campuses.

Dozens gathered Monday in the House chamber to voice their opinions on the bill.

Art Thomm, an NRA member and parent of a high school senior who hopes to go to college in West Virginia, voiced his support of the bill.

"This bill simply empowers men and women to protect themselves from violent attacks by allowing additional safety measures for the campuses,” Thomm said.

Among those who voiced their opposition were members of law enforcement, including campus police who expressed concerns over the potential costs.

"We’ll have to complete security updates to buildings, additional equipment for officers,” said West Virginia University Chief of Police, William Chedester.

Others brought up that colleges are also a place where debates take place and how adding guns could be problematic.

"Not so much in the buildings where we are having these heated discussions, where we are having these issues in our dorm rooms,” said Fairmont State University Chief of Police Matt Swain.

Several educators and parents addressed the national and state mental health crisis.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, West Virginia ranks 11th in national suicide death rates.

"Easy access to guns will likely result in more attempts and more attempts being successful,” said Concord University Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Sarah Beasley.

Despite the opposing viewpoints, those who spoke have a common goal keeping students and faculty safe.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/11/19
The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee will host a public hearing Monday afternoon at the state capitol in connection with a campus carry bill.

House Bill 2519, called The Campus Self Defense Act, would require colleges to allow those licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon to do so on campus and in campus buildings.

The bill includes some exceptions from the requirement including events in campus sports arenas with more than 1,500 seats, campus daycare centers, campus police headquarters and private events.

Some states that have campus carry allow firearms in residence halls. House Bill 2519 doesn’t address the situation but that may change, according to House Judiciary Chairman John Shott.

“Our bill is silent on that but that’s certainly an issue we will be developing,” Shott said.

The public hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. in the House Chamber.

“I think if you’re interested in local control or choice, individual choice, you certainly ought to plan on attending that public hearing and monitoring the progress of that bill,” Shott said.

According to the bill, its purpose is “to allow a person who holds a current and valid license to carry a concealed deadly weapon to carry such a weapon on the campus and in the buildings of a state institution of higher education. It provides exceptions and immunity to an institution for a licensee’s intentional or unintentional use of a firearm while carrying it under the act.

“The bill seeks to acknowledge that violence against disarmed law-abiding citizens is an increasing, but unnecessary, occurrence. The bill is an attempt by the Legislature to reaffirm a law-abiding citizen’s Second Amendment Right, the right to protect themselves by allowing legally licensed and permitted employees, staff, and students of public universities the right to legally carry a concealed weapon within specified limitations”

Delegate Jim Butler, R-Mason, is the bill’s chief sponsor.





 
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