FAIRMONT, W.Va. — Amid questions and frustrations of teacher pay and PEIA, public employees also have concerns regarding the conceal campus carry bill that passed the House committee last week.
Both employees and legislators spoke against House Bill 4298 — which passed out of the House Education Committee Friday morning — during a town hall meeting at East Fairmont High School Saturday.
“Every single university in the state opposes this,” Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer (D – Monongalia, 51) said during the town hall meeting.
And she appears to be right.
WVU’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop spoke against the bill Friday on MetroNews “Talkline” with Hoppy Kercheval.
“We also have a lot of areas on our campus where we don’t think that the presence of concealed weapons is a good thing,” Alsop said.
“Putting a weapon, or additional weapons on campus, in any of those situations does not make it safer,” he added. “It makes it more likely that someone could get a hold of a gun or do something to escalate a situation.”
Delegate John Williams (D – Monongalia, 51) said the Mountaineer mascot is the only individual at WVU who should be carrying.
“Especially since it’s blanks that he’s got in there,” Williams joked.
“I can’t stand up for that campus carry bill,” he continued. “It’s a college campus for crying out loud, we don’t need guns there. There’s already enough violence in downtown Morgantown we don’t need guns on campus.”
There would be exceptions, including stadiums or arena with more than 5,000 spectators — including Mountaineer Field and the WVU Coliseum. However, that exception would not apply to tailgating in the parking lots.
Delegate Linda Longstreth (D – Marion, 50) says passing such a bill could detrimentally hurt the influx of money brought into the state by the NCAA.
“The big schools, they don’t do it there, so they’re not going to come here if we allow it,” Longstreth said. “WVU carries clear bags now. It’s a school policy that you see what they’re carrying, so why would they say they want to see what you’re carrying, but allow you to carry a concealed weapon underneath your coat. That doesn’t make any sense at all.”
If the bill makes it to the House, Longstreth said she will vote against it unless it’s dramatically changed.
“I think it’s very dangerous to go down that road,” Longstreth said. “I know we have people saying we have the right to bear arms. I do know that, but I want to protect the kids. I want to protect the parents’ children out there, and I think the parents would want that too.”
Jon Dodds, a network engineer with 20 years of experience in higher education, said he hopes to not see the bill get that far through the Legislature and that the state’s leaders would instead listen to the views of the public.
“It’s clear that the people in higher ed, all of the universities, all of their representatives, and a lot of the faculty and staff at these universities are against it, therefore, that’s the way it should be,” Dodds said.
Longstreth said this issue isn’t about being anti-gun, but that some places should be off-limits.
“There’s a place and a time for having a gun,” she said. “I have one too, but I would certainly not take it into a sports arena or anything other place such as that with young people in it.”