Carrying a concealed firearm on school campuses has long been a contentious issue in Nevada politics, and the 2015 legislative session isn’t poised to be any different.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee spent 90 minutes Wednesday morning hearing testimony on Assembly Bill 2, which would allow guns to be kept in locked or occupied cars on school grounds.
Legislators including Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, a Republican from Minden, were quick to differentiate the measures from previous, failed bills to allow guns on campus by calling it a “parking lot bill.” However, the packed committee meeting room and heated debate surrounding the proposal seemed to foreshadow a long fight on the topic in coming weeks.
Republican Assembly Speaker John Hambrick of Las Vegas is sponsoring the bill, which would allow firearms to be stored in a car on the grounds of any day care center or public, private or college campus as long as the vehicle is occupied, locked or if the gun is kept in a storage container.
Existing Nevada law makes it a misdemeanor to possess firearms on school grounds, with certain exceptions.
Lobbyist Ron Dreher called the bill a “common-sense reform” that would allow gun owners to legally carry their weapons when picking up their kids from school, or to leave their guns in a securely locked container so they wouldn’t lose access to them when traveling to and from school zones.
Dreher said it would better reflect the reality in rural counties, where parents and students store firearms in their car in order to go hunting after school.
Bill opponents, including the Nevada Faculty Alliance and Democratic former state Sen. Justin Jones, said the bill was too broad and needed substantial work.
Washoe and Clark County school districts and the Nevada System of Higher Education didn’t take a stance on the bill, saying they were working with Hambrick to introduce an amendment addressing their concerns with the legislation.
Washoe County schools lobbyist Lindsay Anderson said school officials met with Hambrick in hopes of adding language that would exempt students, clarify that the bill would only apply to concealed weapon permit holders, require the guns to be stored in a locked compartment and require the permission of a school principal.
Proposals allowing so-called “campus carry” should have an easier time getting though the Republican-controlled Assembly and Senate this session. Similar legislation died in a Democrat-controlled committee in 2013 without receiving a floor vote.
Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Las Vegas said she plans to reintroduce legislation this session allowing permit holders to bring concealed firearms on college campuses.