West Virginia educators say they are dismayed at Gov. Jim Justice’s signing of legislation allowing concealed guns on college campuses.
The Campus Self-Defense Act allows people 21 and older to carry guns in study halls and lounges, and other public spaces on campus beginning July 2024. Under the law, guns must be securely stored when not carried.
Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, which represents some members in higher education, said the bill faced strong opposition across the board.
“We had university presidents, college presidents, come and speak against this,” Albert noted. “And yet it passed and was signed into law. So, we feel like the voices of those involved weren’t listened to. They were not heard, and that’s very troubling.”
Last week, West Virginia University President Gordon Lee — who opposed the legislation — sent a letter to faculty, staff, students and parents, announcing the formation of a new Campus Safety Group tasked with making recommendations prior to the law’s implementation date.
Campus Self-Defense Act supporters, including the National Rifle Association, argued the law will help protect students in the event of a mass shooting.
Albert emphasized his colleagues feel campus safety should be left to trained campus security officers and law enforcement, and lawmakers should instead be directing more resources to mental-health support.
“The general feeling is we just don’t want more guns on our college campuses,” Albert stressed. “We don’t want more guns anywhere, where students are and where young people work, study and learn every day.”
A 2022 survey by the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found nationwide, public support for concealed carry on college campuses has decreased, from 36% in 2019 to 27% in 2021.