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

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. (WSAZ / WDTV)-- UPDATE 3/5/19 9:30 PM
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.

UPDATE (10:55 p.m. February 27, 2019 ET)
House passes concealed carry bill 51-49 after heated crossover day debate. It will subsequently need approval from the Senate before it becomes law.

White House Communications Director Jared Hunt says The Campus Self Defense Act is back on the agenda for the House of Delegates tonight.

Earlier Wednesday, the House Rules Committee placed the bill on the inactive calendar, effectively killing it. However, officials say the bill has been placed back onto the active calendar for discussion during the 7 p.m. session.

Delegates would have to pass the bill by the end of the session for it to move to the Senate.

Stay with 5 News for updates.

UPDATE 2/27/19
A bill that would allow licensed people to carry guns on state college campuses is effectively dead after a meeting by the House Rules Committee Wednesday morning.

The committee voted to move The Campus Self Defense Act (HB 2519) off of the active calendar. A motion was then made for the House to revive the bill with a 2/3s vote. However, the motion only passed 59-40.

With Wednesday being Crossover Day--the last day before bills are moved from the House to Senate or vice versa--it would take several legislative hurdles to revive the bill.

West Virginia University and Marshall University were among universities that spoke out against the bill, citing safety concerns.

Advocates of the bill argued that having more legal guns on campus would help with security.

The West Virginia House Judiciary Committee met this afternoon for a public hearing about House Bill 2519, The Campus Self Defense Act.

The bill would allow licensed people to carry a concealed weapon on college campuses.

Students say they believe it should be the schools' choice.

"The schools should regulate themselves on this kind of thing. It should be up to WVU, Fairmont State, Davis & Elkins and places like them to determine what their safety standards should be," said WVU student, John Lowe.

According to the Legislature's website, the bill won't limit the institutions' authority to regulate certain areas where guns aren't allowed. For instance at a stadium or a campus daycare center.

One student says it's unclear where students can leave their guns when entering restricted areas.

"People have class in the Coliseum and in the shell building. Are they just going to take their gun out of their pocket? Where do you put that then," said WVU student, Sierra Davis.

Dozens of people spoke today. Law enforcement officers, college officials and even students. Each expressing their opinions on the bill.

"It's for these reasons, and other reasons you'll hear today, increased likelihood of suicide, the delicate mental health of some young adults, the escalation of violent conflict, accidental discharge and confusion and tactical situations, that we ask you to give this legislation careful consideration," said one speaker at the public hearing.

Another speaker said, "to members of the West Virginia legislature and members of the House Judiciary Committee, a vote against House bill 2519 is a vote against student safety and individual rights on college campuses outlined by the constitution of West Virginia and the United Sates of America."

Some students say they might feel the safest if they can have a defense mechanism.

"If somebody was not allowed to carry a gun and they brought it and there wasn't another person who had a gun to defend people who don't have a gun, then it would be a way for some self defense," said student, Shayla Klein.

The bill is an attempt by the Legislature to give people the ability to protect themselves. Some say for those who have permits, they know how to handle a gun safely and properly.

"If they have a concealed carry they're more or less likely to be safe about it because they actually took the time to take a course to know how to be safe with a concealed weapon," said Lowe.

According to the bill's write up, it doesn't address if students can carry in residence halls.