Campus Carry Law Removes Power of “Higher Education” Administrators to Ban Carry

On March 1, 2023, Governor Jim Justice of West Virginia signed SB 10, the Campus Carry Act into law. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2024.  Governor Justice was enthusiastic about signing the new law. He proudly described his growing up in West Virginia and told a story about hunting grouse with a 20 gauge shotgun, which was repaired by one of the people in attendance at the ceremony. West Virginia is the 12 state to remove bans on the carry of weapons at institutes of post-secondary education.  Numerous members of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League (WVCDL) were at the signing ceremony. Many of them had worked for years to obtain this reform.

The new law removes the power of institutions of post-secondary education in West Virginia to ban the legal carry of concealed handguns, by those with a valid concealed carry permit, in most areas on campus. There are a few areas where the administrators of post-secondary education institutions may still ban the concealed carry of firearms. The new law applies primarily to students, educators, and employees of West Virginia institutes of post-secondary education. West Virginia law did not and does not ban carry on campus. However, administrators of those institutions were allowed by law to impose administrative penalties for actions which were not banned by West Virginia law. Students could be expelled. Employees could be fired. Lesser sanctions could be imposed.

In effect, the administrations of most institutions of “higher learning” created effective “gun free zones” where most people at the institutions were not allowed to carry defensive weapons. SB 10 removes most of that legal loophole from campus administrators.

From SB 10, the Campus Carry Act:

(h) It is the intent of the Legislature to establish, by this act, conditions under which persons with a current and valid license to carry a concealed deadly weapon may carry a concealed pistol or revolver at a state institution of higher education. When a person exercises the rights granted by this section, neither the carrying of a concealed pistol or revolver, nor any other conduct of person involving a concealed pistol or revolver, shall be construed to be an act of the state institution of higher education nor of the state, and no liability for any such actions of such person shall be imputed to the state institution of higher education, its officers, agents, or employees, unless the state institution of higher education has expressly requested or directed such person to carry a concealed pistol or revolver: Provided, That the failure to provide adequate security measures at any building or location at a state institution of higher education where the carrying of a concealed pistol or revolver is not permitted shall not give rise to a cause action or any liability whatsoever related to or arising from the carrying of a concealed pistol or revolver by any person.

To obtain the votes necessary to pass the bill, several compromises were made. The bill only applies to people with valid concealed carry permits. Those include people who have an out-of-state permit recognized by West Virginia, who are over 21, not a resident of WV, and have the permit or license in their possession. West Virginia recognized the permits from 28 states as of November of 2022.

There are a few places on campus where administrators are still allowed to create gun free zones. They include stadiums, on-campus daycare, disciplinary hearings, individual office settings, certain laboratories with significant amounts of hazardous materials, dormitory rooms, and others. Fireams storage areas are required at residence halls if individual firearms safes are not provided in rooms.

The bill bans the open carry of firearms by state law on campus, even for people who are not under the jurisdiction of the institution.

The ban on open carry on campus for everyone appears to have been one of the tradeoffs. In return, people with a carry permit can carry in most campus buildings, most of the time and campus administrators cannot prevent most students and employees from carrying concealed with a shall-issue permit, most of the time in most places.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten