Supporters of a bill to allow employees of school districts and Nevada’s higher education system to carry guns on campus if they have a concealed-weapon permit said Monday that the issue is about responding quickly to imminent threats.
Opponents countered that having more guns would make campuses less safe, and that there are already procedures for employees with permits to ask permission of administrators to carry guns under special circumstances.
Sen. Joe Hardy, the sponsor of SB223, said that when it comes to mass shootings, “we know that 30 seconds is fatal.”
“This is not about the Second Amendment rights, this is about the reality of how long it takes to respond,” said Hardy, R-Boulder City.
Other supporters echoed Hardy’s reasoning.
“It allows citizens to be the first line of defense for school shootings,” said Matthew Yealy, a citizen. “The police cannot be everywhere.”
Added Greg Ross, “I think a shootout is far preferable than a massacre.”
But police, school administrators and officials with the Nevada System of Higher Education opposed the bill, which would allow employees with permits to carry their weapons on school grounds provided they tell the campus president or school principal that they are armed.
Dan Klaich, chancellor of Nevada’s higher education system, said there have been relatively few requests from people asking permission to carry weapons on campus. He added most are denied because no direct threat was identified.
“We ask a lot of our faculty,” Klaich said. “We don’t ask them to patrol our streets. We ask them to teach.”
Joyce Haldeman, with the Clark County School District, also spoke against the bill. She said despite recent shootings, schools remain safe places for children.
“Current law already allows a district employee to carry with permission of the principal,” Haldeman said. “We do have teachers and others currently carrying weapons.”
She urged the committee to leave such decisions to the campus administrator.
Opposition was also voiced by college campus presidents, campus police agencies, as well as student and faculty representatives.
The committee also heard two others bills to change concealed-weapon permits. SB226, sponsored by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, would allow people with permits to have it indicated on their driver’s license. It would also abolish Clark County’s gun-registration ordinance, which has been in effect for decades.
Chuck Callaway, representing Las Vegas police, said the county’s registration requirement is free and has allowed the agency to track down gun owners when firearms are stolen, as well as crime suspects.
“Gun registration is a valuable tool for law enforcement,” he said.
Another bill, SB137, backed by Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, would do away with concealed-weapon permits entirely, allowing anyone who can legally own a firearm to carry it concealed.
The committee took no action on the bills Monday.