CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) — A group of West Virginia University students gathered at the school Thursday to protest a proposed House bill that would allow guns to be carried and concealed on college campuses.
The bill, known as the “Campus Self Defense Act,” was referred to the House Finance Committee Thursday to discuss a note from higher education, which brings up the cost for more security on campuses if the bill is passed.
House Bill 2519 would allow a person who holds a current license to carry a concealed deadly weapon at higher education institutions in the state.
Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert issued a statement Thursday morning about the bill.
"Marshall University remains steadfast in its opposition to guns on college campuses," he said in the statement. "The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff is of paramount importance to us and this legislation threatens the very foundation of that responsibility. I am opposed and remain opposed to guns on campus. This is a very serious issue and one that I believe should be made by our Board of Governors."
Del. Caleb Hanna, R-Webster, is a student at West Virginia State University and also a sponsor of the bill.
"I think everyone should have the right to defend themselves regardless of where you work or where you study," Hanna said.
West Virginia State University President Anthony Jenkins said when it comes to public safety, campus carry is a complicated issue.
"We believe that introducing weapons into the fundamental core of higher education moves us away from who we are. We've not had the opportunity to really vet this bill and have a comprehensive discussion with lawmakers about what some of our concerns are," Jenkins said.
After constitutional carry passed in 2016, anyone over the age of 21 can conceal carry without a license.
As a military veteran, Jenkins said he supports Second Amendment rights, but he said this is a separate issue about how to keep campuses safe. He said there needs to be a broader, more comprehensive discussion before a bill is passed.