Staunchly conservative Republicans in the Nevada Legislature are revisiting legislation to allow concealed weapons on college campuses.
The bill, which is scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, would allow permit holders to bring concealed firearms on to college campuses, K-12 schools, daycare centers and non-secure parts of airports.
Similar proposals were heard during the last two legislative sessions. But with Republicans in control of both the Assembly and Senate, bill sponsor Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, several conservative lawmakers and gun groups say the proposal has a greater chance of passing.
But a number of national groups, education officials and student groups oppose the idea and say the bill is misguided and dangerous to students.
In actuality, the bill itself would only affect a small number of people. Nevada colleges by and large rarely receive applications for concealed weapons, and those that do are usually reject them, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.
Over the last two years, Nevada colleges received a total of 19 applications for concealed weapon permits, mainly at the University of Nevada, Reno. Five applications were approved in that time span.
A total of 21 Assembly and Senate members signed on to support the bill, which is slightly more than the number of applications submitted for concealed carry permits at Nevada colleges between 2013 and 2014.Despite the low number of applicants, gun rights groups say the bill would expand legal gun rights for generally well-behaved concealed weapon holders. Nevada Firearms Coalition President Don Turner said the bill would mainly affect older students and teachers, and that similar laws in other states have largely worked out peacefully.
“There was this huge outcry that all these crazy people would be having gun battles in the street, and that’s simply not the case,” he said.
If passed, Nevada would join Utah and Idaho as states with few restrictions on concealed weapons on campus. Sixteen states have legalized some form of “campus carry.” However, the majority only allow weapons in locked vehicles.
Nevada law requires applicants to show a “specific risk of attack” or demonstrate vulnerability based on a former profession, in order to be approved for a concealed weapon. Critics say the requirement is too stringent and gives colleges the ability to dismiss applications.
Fiore said the bill, which is more expansive and includes airports and K-12 schools, goes further than previous legislative attempts because of Republican majorities in the Legislature.
“The legislation I proposed last session was quite the compromise for me,” she said. “So this session, tables have changed.”
The Las Vegas assemblywoman drew heat for comments to the New York Times regarding sexual assault, saying “hot little girls” would lower campus rape once “sexual predators get a bullet in the head.”
UNR student Maddie Poole disagrees with Fiore’s comments and pointed to a recently released student survey showing 80 percent of sexual assaults happen off campus. Poole, the president of a student Planned Parenthood group, said the majority of sexual assaults happen between people who know each other.
“You’re not going to be shooting your boyfriend or your co-workers,” she said.
In general, student and education officials oppose the bill. UNR’s student government passed a resolution condemning the bill on Wednesday. UNLV’s student government hasn’t taken a position, student body president Elias Benjelloun said.
Clark County School District lobbyist Joyce Haldeman said the school district opposes guns in schools and would seek to remove the section regarding K-12 facilities.
Washoe County School District lobbyists Lindsay Anderson said the school board is still reviewing the bill.
Reno Tahoe Airport Authority spokeswoman Heidi Jared said the airport opposes the bill, which would allow concealed weapons to be carried anywhere in an airport outside of secured areas. She said airports have a vast amount of security, including a dedicated police force, hundreds of cameras and about 150 Transportation Security Agency agents.
“We have sworn law enforcement officers who patrol the airport terminal 24/7 to maintain safety,” Jared said.
Despite the opposition, Fiore guaranteed that her legislation will pass through the Legislature.
“Just so you understand, campus carry will be passed out this session,” she said.