Dear West Virginia University Students, Faculty, Staff and Parents:
Earlier today (March 1), Gov. Jim Justice signed Senate Bill 10, the West Virginia Self-Defense Act, which will allow those with a valid license to carry a concealed weapon in certain areas on our campuses starting July 1, 2024.
I know this legislation leaves many feeling uncomfortable and brings forward many questions. Some may be unsure of their safety and well-being. Others may feel relief. We all have several questions as to how this will be implemented on our campuses.
First, let me be clear. Safety has always been a top priority for our campuses, and going forward, it will remain a priority for our campuses.
We have opposed this type of legislation many times in recent years, firmly believing that local control is the best path forward. We reiterated this to lawmakers on multiple occasions again this year. However, now that this bill has been signed into law, we must come together as a community and work through the implications as it relates to the overall safety of our campuses.
There are a number of safeguards included in the law. Firearms will be prohibited at organized events taking place at an arena or stadium with a capacity of more than 1,000 spectators, residence hall rooms (except for lounges, dining areas and study areas), daycare facilities, formal disciplinary/grievance hearings, individual office spaces, and mental health/patient care counseling spaces.
I also want to be clear about what this does mean. An individual with a concealed weapons permit is generally authorized to carry a concealed weapon on our campuses and in our buildings. However, they are not authorized to openly carry or intentionally show a weapon, unless needed for self-defense.
This law will not take effect on our campuses until July 1, 2024. We will use the time wisely. It is important to note that as we have shared our concerns about this legislation, we have also talked with our colleagues across the country where similar acts have passed. We have researched best practices at other campuses where they have navigated this issue successfully, including those in Texas, Colorado, Kansas and Georgia. The insights we have gleaned will help inform our work in the weeks and months ahead.
To assist in those efforts, we will create a new Campus Safety Group which will make recommendations relating to our overall campus safety prior to the implementation date. Information from this group will be shared via emails, MOUNTAINEER E-News, Unews and through Campus Conversations. In the meantime, I would encourage you to visit safety.wvu.edu for current safety protocols and information.
Today we must come together to focus clearly on what is most important to all of us – keeping our students, faculty, staff, visitors and community members safe while on our campuses. That has always been, and will remain, our utmost priority.
E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University