After almost certain death, House passes campus carry bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – On Crossover Day at the West Virginia Legislature, some people called the campus carry bill a zombie bill.

What they meant was that the Campus Self Defense Act, House Bill 2519, died, died again, died again, then rose and came to life. Along the way, a long list of proposed amendments was swept aside.

Following an extensive amendment process and floor debate, the chamber passed the bill 59-41.

The fate of that bill came into question early Wednesday when the House Rules Committee met before the floor session to vote on moving some bills to the inactive calendar. Judiciary Chair John Shott, R-Mercer, who opposed the bill, acted to move the legislation to the inactive calendar. A voice vote showed an even split and Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, called for division, which leads to a vote by show of hands.

Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, called for that vote, was unsure of the count, called for it again, then once more. The vote was 10-8 to move it to the inactive calendar, killing the bill temporarily.

On the floor, Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, moved to have it transferred back to the active calendar. That requires a two-thirds approval and failed 59-40, keeping it dead for the time being. A subsequent effort to do the same failed in a voice vote.

Then, during a recess, House Rules approved a motion to bring the bill back to the active calendar, 11-9.

Shott said following that vote he was disappointed.

“I thought the right thing to do was take it off the calendar,” he said. “If it’s a bill worth doing, we ought to study it and get input from all the institutions and try to minimize the damage that occurs. Obviously, the NRA has great influence here and, basically, a number of people are terrified of losing their endorsements.”

He said he hoped it would die after the morning meeting, but knew more maneuvers would occur “and the NRA would be burning up the phones to make sure the bill got back on track.”

“It overcomes a lot of people’s better judgment,” Shott added.

The House took up the bill after returning from its afternoon recess, preparing to deal with 15 proposed amendments, all but one of which failed.

HB 2519 would allow, with specified exceptions, people with concealed carry permits to carry pistols and revolvers on college campuses. The bill carves out 12 exceptions to carrying on campus.

Members rejected a motion to suspend the House rules and reject all the amendments as a group. Members then approved Summers’ motion to limit debate on each amendment to 15 minutes.

The amendment that succeeded came from Shott and requires an annual report to the Legislature from the higher education institutions regarding any issues associated with campus carry.

Delegate Evan Hansen, D-Monongalia, proposed one dealing with carrying while under the influence. It failed 33-66.

Also failing:

— One to prohibit carrying on the PRT and other transportation vehicles.

— A Shott amendment to broaden the ban on venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more to include all athletic events and other activities, in order to include smaller schools and based on Texas law. Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha, pointed out that the amendment envisions various championship events for which the sponsors won’t approve venues allowing guns; 48-52.

— A Shott amendment to expand the prohibition area around a space designated for disciplinary or grievance procedures taking place; 34-66.

— One further defining the prohibition at Pre-K to 12 school events and mandating a sign; 45-55.

— One broadening the prohibition to certain areas, including “premises which involve a ticketed or charitable theater or film performance, musical recital, lecture, speech, live performance, entertainment, concert or other events where the introduction of firearms is inconsistent with the safety and security of the event;” 43-57.

— One to raise the carry age to 21 by excluding provisional permits; and specifying that licensed military members (who can be under 21) and veterans may carry. This would effectively exclude most freshmen and sophomores.

“This bill has sparked something in my constituency that I have not seen since the teacher strike,” Delegate John Williams, D-Monongalia, said. Citing President Franklin Roosevelt, he said all people on campus deserve freedom from fear.

Delegate Dave Pethtel, D-Wetzel, who also is an NRA member, said he originally supported the bill but would vote against the bill after hearing from Fairmont State University; university leaders fear losing faculty and students.

Delegate Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, was among the female and male members who talked about campus rape.

“Maybe the men in this body have never felt the fear of walking by yourself at night from chemistry class to your car. This bill means some freedom from fear for women on campus,” she said.

Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, echoed that.

“This bill is about my daughters having the ability to defend themselves from those who would take from them,” she said. “This is your fundament right. This is your children’s fundamental rights.”

Delegate Daryl Cowles, R-Morgan, pointed out that the bill doesn’t permit everyone to carry on campus – only those who have gone through the steps to get a permit, and only concealed carry, not open.

Delegate Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia, said calls and emails to his office were 20-1 against the bill, and most of the supporters were from outside his district.

Delegate Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia, read a letter from a young woman who was sexually assaulted twice and believes that had she had a gun in either situation, she would have been killed or harmed by the person who overpowered her.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said his daughter, who attends West Virginia University, does not want to live on a campus where guns are allowed.

After the vote, Delegate Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia, jestingly moved that the bill become effective July 1, 2099. The motion failed 31-69.

Story by David Beard