Beer and bullets: Fairmont State student worries about the other side of Campus Carry law

FAIRMONT – It’s the last part of Gov. Jim Justice’s earlier quote that was giving graduate student Taylor Tennant pause Monday on the campus of Fairmont State University.

When Justice signed the Campus Carry bill into law this past March, he parsed it down in his trademark folksy manner.

“For crying out loud, the doors are wide open,” the governor said then, of the measure that now covers every public college and university in the Mountain State.

Translation: Such spaces are indeed public.

Which means accessibility to any and all – including those who may have the intent to commit violence and murder with a handgun or rifle, be it impulsive or pre-meditated.  

Under the law, which went into effect Monday, students with concealed-carry permits may now be officially armed, on campus.

That’s so the above can at least potentially defend themselves in an active-shooter situation, the governor said.

“We just hope and pray that there’s never a problem,” Justice said. “We can’t ensure in any way that there won’t be a problem.”

Justice also wanted the law to “send a message,” he said, at its signing.

“By God, if you want to mess with us – we can mess back.”

The above of which, being the source of Tennant’s unease Monday.

First, some particulars.

Campus Carry came out of the Campus Self Defense Act, which passed in West Virginia as Senate Bill 10 in 2023.

It’s not completely wide open, however.

Under the bill, weapons will still be banned in certain circumstances, including disciplinary hearings and at facilities where emotional health counseling is provided.

And Fairmont State police will oversee the weapons in specially designated storage lockers outfitted with security measures at select locations on campus, including Bryant Place and University Terrace.

President Mike Davis convened a school-wide forum near the end of the spring semester to get ready.

One student who owns firearms spoke to the bill during the forum.

So did another affected by gun violence.

The first day of the fall semester at Fairmont State is Aug. 26.

That’s when the president wants students fully armed – with awareness and information.

“My goal is that the campus self-defense act will be a non-issue when the fall semester kicks off,” Davis said.

Tennant, a 23-year-old master’s student in human resources who was working out Monday in the school’s Falcon Center, said he appreciates the bill’s broad mission of safety in the face of gun violence – which he says is now inevitable in American society.

He’s just not sure about that “non-issue” part.  

Not with armed college students, he said.

Not with the emotional tumult of undergrad life, he said.

After all, he said, it might come down to how many students feel “messed with” on any given day.

The Campus Carry law, he said, could conceivably make it easier for any beer-fueled argument to end in an exchange of bullets.

“Today, this place doesn’t ‘feel’ any different. But wait until fall, when everybody’s back.”