State Sen. Rupert Phillips

State Sen. Rupert Phillips, R- Logan, during a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this year. Phillips is one of the sponsors of the Campus Self-Defense Act. 

A "Die-in," event hosted by The Student Association of Public Administrators (SAPA) was held outside of the Mountainlair on Tuesday, April 6.

The goal of the event was to inform students of the importance of involvement in the legislative process and also offered a voter registration booth where students, from both in- and out-of-state, could register to vote.

As she pursues a master’s degree in public administration at WVU, Shelby Johnson said she and a group of students have been working to influence policy in the West Virginia Legislature this year on a variety of issues.

Mark Tuzi, a public administration graduate student, explained the purpose and meaning of the “Die-in.”

“In this context, we have legislation that wants to bring guns on campus. That being said, there's a danger not only to students getting involved in an active shooter situation where they can be hurt or someone else can be hurt,” Tuzi said. “Also we want the parents to understand if campus carry does come into existence, their children are going to be at risk.”

SAPA is also working to influence and stop the passage of campus carry laws, which would allow firearms on campus.

“Our goal is to help students register to vote and raise awareness and make people aware of some of the things that the West Virginia Legislature has been up to this session,” Johnson said. “We want to help cannabis reform medically and recreationally, and lastly we would like to help advocate for the implementation of a public state bank here in West Virginia.”

Campus carry bills discussed in this year's legislative session include Senate Bill 246, which would allow licensed employees and students to carry concealed weapons on the campus of a public higher education institution. 

WVU President E. Gordon Gee recently addressed concerns of this new legislation in a letter sent out to the campus community.

"Providing a safe learning environment for students is the supreme responsibility of any university,” Gee said. "For that reason, West Virginia University opposes these pieces of legislation, which in varying forms would allow individuals licensed to carry concealed weapons to carry them on college and university campuses."

Johnson said events like these are important because a lot of times students are not engaged with their government and what their legislature is doing. 

“It’s important not only to register to vote, but to keep track of what’s going on in the state legislature and make sure that the decisions being made are not only right for you but for the state,” said Johnson.

SAPA urges students to contact local and state lawmakers to make them aware of the impact these new legislations have on themselves as well as their peers.