Hemphill said he believes guns do not belong in schools but that the discussion of campus safety is "critical."
School officials should have thorough crisis-response plans in place, and Hemphill said he believes a college should have a "threat-assessment team." The team would meet on a weekly basis and evaluate any student, or campus presence, that has shown questionable behavior.
"There is one thing that is certain in all of this: Someone noticed something about that individual that was concerning before tragedy struck, but in many cases, it was overlooked," Hemphill said. "These teams can reach out to people who may have challenges in their lives by simply asking if they need help."
The shooter at NIU was a former student who had a history of mental illness.
"You can't prevent somebody that's intent on hurting people -- it's almost impossible when universities are wide open communities -- but, you can make sure that you do things that reduce the likelihood of having people killed," Hemphill said. "This isn't just a serious concern for our universities, but for our country."
One of Hemphill's students agrees that it's a serious concern, but sees a completely different answer.
Keith Morgan, president of the West Virginia Citizens Defense League and a WVSU student, said he hears complaints from students all the time.
"Most universities have quite a large number of students that wouldn't be able to defend themselves, while violent crime happens on a regular basis on and near campuses," Morgan said. "School administrators are ensuring that college students are just fish in a barrel. On campus, I'm a fish in a barrel. I couldn't do anything to stop a violent attack."
Morgan said that, while policies allow armed guards and police on campus, it's not enough.
"The presence of campus police doesn't matter. These things are over in seconds, and the damage is done. Even if an officer is just across campus, it's over," he said. "I can't say that these things would not happen if guns were allowed, but I can tell you that it would be ended quickly if a gunman entered a classroom that I was in."
Next month, Morgan said, his group will meet with the Legislature, where he will push for legislation that allows guns on campuses, among other changes that he believes are now denying gun owners' rights.
House Education Committee Chairwoman Mary Poling, D-Barbour, said that, while state lawmakers have focused on armed officers on school grounds, she's never discussed the issue of allowing students to carry guns on campus.
She said that's a conversation she's willing to have but that she doesn't see the benefit.
"It's my belief that students wouldn't be any safer just because they would be allowed to carry guns. I'm not interested in opening that up to allow campuses to permit guns," said Poling, a former schoolteacher. "I know there have been campus shootings, but I don't believe students having access to guns would necessarily make them safer."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.