Starting next year, students and staff at West Virginia’s public universities will be able to carry on campus so long as they possess a valid concealed carry license. The measure was enacted earlier this year over the objections of higher education officials, and there are still plenty of folks who are opposed to the idea, including the editors of the Dominion Post in Morgantown, home to West Virginia University.
In a new editorial blasting the pending changes, the paper lays out some of the standard talking points against recognizing the right to armed self-defense on a college campus; college students are too impulsive to own a gun, their brains aren’t fully developed, and allowing “stressed out” scholars to carry a gun on their person is likely to lead to more violence on campus.
The editors could have eased their minds by taking a look at other states like Kansas, Texas, and Colorado, where campus carry has been in place for years without issue, but I guess doing a little research would be too much to ask of the journalists. Instead, their arguments rest largely on straw men of their own creation… except when they end up actually making the case for the law they oppose.
And, of course, there’s the damage that gun-wielding students can inflict upon others: The 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre still immediately comes to mind ; in 2022, a University of Virginia student opened fire on a bus full of his peers. And those are the extreme examples. What’s more likely is an increase in shootings related to arguments and /or domestic violence in which only one or two people are hurt.
Again, there’s no evidence of an increase in on-campus violence in any of the dozen states where campus carry is in place. More important, though, is the fact that the two mass shootings that they reference did not take place on campuses where students and staff could lawfully defend themselves with a firearm. Firearms are prohibited at public colleges and universities in Virginia, and those restrictions did absolutely nothing to prevent either shooting.
Declaring a campus to be “gun-free” doesn’t actually stop anyone from bringing a firearm on campus. It might be a basketball player, a college professor, grad student, or someone who’s not even a student who ignores the policy, but unless they display that gun or use it there’s nothing that can be done to stop them.
When you walk into a “sensitive place” that’s not really sensitive in practice, there is no real protection, just the illusion of safety for those who choose to believe. A sign alerting people not to bring their guns inside offers as much security as any other piece of paper or plastic; that is to say, none at all. It’s because of shootings like Virginia Tech that have led states to allow for students and staff to be able to protect themselves with a firearm… a step that my own state of Virginia sadly hasn’t taken.
If the states that have already adopted campus carry are any guide, students and faculty at WVU or Marshall won’t even notice a difference once campus carry takes effect beyond the presence of gun safes in on-campus dorms… a nod to “gun safety” approved by lawmakers that the paper’s editors have still found a way to critique.
What happens if a college can’t fill its designated firearm-friendly dorm with concealed carry permit holders ? What if non-gun-using students refuse to fill the remaining empty beds ? Will the state reimburse the school for lost room and board revenue ?
No matter which way you look at, the West Virginia Self-Defense Act is terrible policy. It is the epitome of government overreach: an unfunded mandate that interferes with local control and personal choice. What’s worse, unlike some of the Legislature’s other terrible policies, this one is likely to end in someone’s death.
Allowing someone to carry a firearm for self-defense interferes with personal choice? What kind of Orwellian doublespeak is that?
WVU does have an issue with declining enrollment, but that can hardly be pegged to a campus carry law that has yet to take effect, and other universities in campus carry states haven’t seen an issue with students staying away. The University of Texas-Austin, home to the “C*cks not Glocks” sex toy protest over campus carry back in 2015, has actually seen record high enrollment over the past two years. The same goes for the University of Kansas, where campus carry took effect in 2017.
If West Virginia University can’t fix its enrollment woes, it won’t be because of campus carry no matter how much the Dominion Post editors claim otherwise. In fact, college enrollment is declining around the country as the cost of a four-year degree has soared and parents and prospective students have soured on the indoctrination that’s replaced a real education at too many institutions. UT-Austin and KU are among the few schools bucking that trend, and while I won’t go so far as to claim that more students are heading to those campuses because they can carry, the fact that they can do so clearly isn’t keeping them away.