March 1, 2023  (Charleston, WV) – Earlier today, Gov. Jim Justice signed SB-10, the self-styled “Campus Self Defense Act”.  This bill is not about self-defense at all.  With his signing of SB 10 today, Gov. Justice has abandoned West Virginia’s public campus communities and the safety of their students, faculty, and staff. A similar bill was defeated in the West Virginia State Senate in 2019. SB 10 forces West Virginia’s public colleges and universities to allow people with concealed weapons permits, including those between the ages of 18-20 who possess a provisional permit, to carry loaded, concealed handguns on campus, with only limited exceptions.

As of July 1, 2024, West Virginia will join eleven other states that also force colleges & universities in various forms to allow loaded, concealed handguns on campus (Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin).

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, which has worked extensively with students, faculty and staff over the last 15 years to oppose guns on campus legislation, condemned Gov. Justice’s bill signing today.  

Andy Pelosi, Executive Director of The Campaign stated:

“Gov. Justice and the West Virginia Legislature dismissed the urging of hundreds of West Virginia college faculty, students, parents, and Presidents to reject this policy, one that will have far reaching negative consequences for higher education in the state.

“The Governor and Legislature have also disregarded the health and well-being of students by failing to acknowledge that by allowing more guns on campuses, suicidal students will have access to a more lethal means of killing themselves. Already, the rate of suicide among 18-24 year olds in West Virginia is at 19.5 per 100,000, compared to 14.2 per 100,000 nationwide. In fact, the firearm suicide rate in West Virginia has steadily increased, outpacing national statistics incrementally each year. In 2020, 325 residents of West Virginia died by firearm suicide. Ranking 8th in the country, a person dies by suicide every 22 hours in West Virginia.

“Furthermore, young women will be put at greater risk now that guns can legally be carried on campus. Like the rest of the country, West Virginia faces epidemic levels of domestic violence deaths. In the West Virginia Fatality Review Panel’s last reported data (2014), guns accounted for 74% of all reviewed Domestic violence deaths in the state; all other means each accounted for 6.5% or less of those deaths. Recognizing the correlation between access to firearms and domestic violence deaths, the Panel explicitly recommended limiting access to firearms as a means of reducing domestic violence death. Allowing guns on campus would plainly undermine these efforts.

“Ultimately, the signing of SB 10 is a gift to the gun lobby.  If the safety of students, faculty, staff and administrators were the key issue, then the Legislature and Governor missed an opportunity to address root causes and solutions to the problem of gun violence in West Virginia. Today is a sad day indeed for public higher education in West Virginia.”

In closing, Keeley Wildman, WVU Social Work Candidate stated:

“It is incredibly disheartening to see our elected officials ignoring our pleas to act in the best interests of the students in our state. When young people continue to leave the state in droves, they shouldn’t even ask themselves why – Their actions are the driving force.”

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The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus works with K-12 schools, colleges and universities across the country to oppose legislative policies that would force loaded, concealed guns on campuses. Since 2008, The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus is the only national organization of its kind tasked with protecting higher educational institutions and the communities they serve. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Contact:  Andy Pelosi, Executive Director, [email protected] (914-629-6726)