Bill would allow concealed carry on campus
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Faculty group opposes proposed weapons law, supporters cite self-defense
The Nevada Legislature is looking at a bill that would allow students to carry guns and other concealed carry weapons on college campuses.
Currently no one, including Nevada citizens who have concealed carry permits (CCWs), is allowed to bring firearms on university property without special permission from the university president, but S.B. 231 would make it legal to openly carry or conceal a firearm on UNLV’s campus without any permission at all.
The bill was postponed after hours of discussion.
Nevada university administrators are opposing the bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas.
Proponents of the legislation say its passage would help increase student safety.
“I think that it is a viable way to protect ourselves,” said Jason Silva, the Rocky Mountain regional director of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
He said that “in a perfect world,” this type of self-defense would be unnecessarybut that carrying a weapon is a practical response to real violence.
“A lot of arguments against [the bill] are fear-based,” Silva told The Nevada Sagebrush, the University of Nevada, Reno student newspaper. “A lot of people lump crazies who shoot up campuses and permit holders into the same group. Statistics don’t support that.”
Opponents argue that S.B. 231 will actually decrease campus security. They assert that increased numbers of college students carrying firearms will bring increased suicide and homicide rates.
Some say college students are already known for engaging in risky behavior and that the passing of this bill would just exacerbate the problem.
Others are not convinced that banning guns on college campuses is the answer. They want the right to defend themselves if they are put in a compromising situation.
University of Nevada, Reno student Amanda Collins has testified before the Legislature in support of S.B. 231. Collins was raped by serial killer James Biela on the UNR campus, just yards from the campus police office.
She had a permit to legally carry a concealed firearm, but she left it at home on the night of the crime because she knew it was illegal to carry her gun onto the university campus.
“My case is a perfect example that despite law enforcement’s best efforts to ensure our safety, they are unable to be everywhere at once,” Collins told lawmakers, according to the Sagebrush.
She thinks that if she was allowed to carry a gun to school, she could have escaped her rapist.
“All I wanted was a chance to defend myself,” Collins said. “S.B. 231 would have given me that chance.”
Assemblyman Scott Hammond, who teaches evening classes at UNLV, said that his students have often expressed concern about the safety of walking alone on campus at night.
“They are very aware of the fact that there are places around the campus that are not the safest,” Hammond said.
He added that he would feel safer if trained permit carriers were in his classes.
The Nevada Faculty Alliance opposes the bill. The group issued a statement that says authorizing guns on campus could increase the likelihood of a mass shooting.
NFA Chair Gregory Brown, a history professor at UNLV, argued against S.B. 231 on the group’s website. He said that the legislation would almost certainly increase the likelihood of violent shootings on campuses.
“It is entirely unnecessary,” Brown said. “Campuses are required to, and do, publish crime statistics, and these show that NSHE’s campuses are not unsafe.”
“Indeed,” he said, “the UNLV campus data shows that crime incidents are considerably less frequent on campus than in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
Hong Lu, a professor in the UNLV Department of Criminal Justice, said she opposes the bill on principle.
“Personally, I would not be comfortable carrying a concealed weapon myself or knowing that any of my students attending my class had a concealed weapon,” she said.
Lu said that in emergency situations, people may not be able to react as quickly as they think they can, whether they have a concealed weapon or not.
“This could result in unintended injuries,” she said.
Some see the debate over S.B. 231 as an issue of interpreting the Second Amendment.
Professor Thomas McAffee of UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law said he thinks everyone would be better off allowing concealed carry permit holders to bring their firearms on campus.
“I confess that the arguments on behalf of S.B. 231 make good sense to me,” he said, but he argued that CCW holders could be the first to respond to a crisis.
“The people who have the right of concealed carry have, in general, not been found to be particularly dangerous, and they may be the people who are best situated to protect us if a Virginia Tech type of situation ever happened again,” he said.
Brown argued that passage of the bill would reflect poorly on the state’s already struggling colleges and universities.
“It would only further damage the credibility and reputation of our already battered system of higher education,” he said, “which is going to be hard-pressed to retain and recruit competitive faculty and students due to our worst-in-the-nation budget crisis for higher education.”
Nevada currently is considered an “open-carry” state. Law-abiding citizens are not required to carry a permit for nonconcealed weapons.
Qualification for a CCW, for those who do wish to conceal their weapons, requires completion of a nine-hour course, a practical shooting test, a background check and approval from the sheriff’s department. The process of issuing a concealed carry permit can take up to four months in Nevada.
ON THE WEB:
Concealed Campus: concealedcampus.org
UNLV Faculty Alliance: unlvfaculty.blogspot.com
Contact Kendle Walters at firstname.lastname@example.org.