Across the U.S., state and federal lawmakers are looking at the ongoing debate about allowing guns on campus, especially since the 2006 Virginia Tech mass shooting and the October 2015 mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.
As far as gun legislation goes in the Virginia General Assembly, state Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-Manassas has introduced House Bill 79.
Marshall’s bill would allow full-time faculty members of public institutions of higher education to carry a concealed handgun on campus if they possess a valid Virginia concealed handgun permit.
Marshall’s bill was referred to the House Committee on Education in December, where its future remains uncertain this year.
At UVa-Wise, the prospect of allowing legal carrying of concealed weapons on state college campuses is getting a mixed reaction.
Nancy Pilkenton, Administrative Assistant at the Center of Student Development and also a dual-enrolled full-time AJU major student at UVa-Wise; campus Police Chief Ronnie Shortt; sophomore Kalek Jones of Farmville, Virginia; Becky Huffman, Director of Financial Aid; Kelly Mullins, Assistant Financial Aid Advisor; junior Antonio Kyle of Norton, Va., and freshman Karri Parrish of Martinsville, Virginia all had opinions on the issue.
Chief Shortt said that he and his colleagues take great pride in having a great secured campus for faculty, students, and staff. He said he does not support the idea of students carrying concealed weapons on campus, believing that students having weapons on campus is more bad than good.
Shortt said the primary goal is to make sure that this institution is well monitored at all times and operation of campus police here at UVa-Wise is every hour of every day.
The use of a firearm has to be the last option for anyone, Shortt said, even down to law enforcement because they should never be deadly force to another human being.
Pilkenton, when asked about students and staff members other than campus police being able to carry concealed weapons on campus, said there should not be guns on campus because it adds “fuel to the fire” when mixing the potential of conflict, anger or mental illness in proximity to weapons.
Pilkenton said she is not against guns or the freedom of choice to carry a concealed weapon. When asked about the satisfactory of service from UVa-Wise Campus Police, Wise Police Department, and Virginia State Police Department, she says that they have done an outstanding job on that accord, since the “hunker down,” incident a few years ago here on the campus of UVa-Wise.
In that incident, a student was charged with making a false report of a shooter on campus.
Becky Huffman and Kelly Mullins from Crockett Hall’s – Financial Aid office here at the college also gave me their insight on the idea of students being able to possibly carry guns on campus.
Mullins said the pros and cons of this problem include knowing ‘good guys’ from ‘bad guys.’ She said that fear will make you do things when you are nervous and your adrenaline is running high.
Huffman said she would not support the students being able to carry concealed weapons, due to the legal ramifications. Huffman said that campus police officers should be the people with concealed weapons, even though officers are limited at certain locations on campus.
Kyle said that allowing guns on college campuses, especially at UVa-Wise, should be a “no go in Virginia.” Anyone allowed to carry a concealed weapon on campus should be held responsible on how they handle the concealed weapon around campus if such a law is passes, he said.
Jones said that he feels UVa-Wise is a great school and that he always feels safe here because there is no element of violence. He said that if on-campus concealed-carry for students becomes law, then he would not feel safe.
Parrish said she is pro-gun and feels that each building on campus should have one staff member designated with a concealed weapon along with campus police having concealed weapons to protect students in case of an emergency. Her support is based on extensive mental and physical training before allowing concealed weapons on campus.
Parrish, an avid hunter, said everyone should be able to carry guns because it is a freedom.