Nevada lawmakers heard hours of testimony Thursday on a deeply divisive bill that would allow concealed weapons at college campuses, K-12 schools, day care centers and airports.
The Assembly Committee on Judiciary heard testimony of AB 148 on Thursday morning, which has captured the attention of numerous advocacy groups and education officials concerned about the proposal’s impact. Supporters of the bill said the measure would expand 2nd Amendment rights to generally law-abiding concealed weapon holders.
Despite staunch opposition from several student groups and education officials, bill sponsor Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, all but guarantees the measure’s passage due to widespread Republican support.
Twenty-one Republicans have signed on to support the bill.
“Just so you understand, campus carry will be passed out this session,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Supporters and opponents filled committee and overflow rooms in Las Vegas and the Legislature during the nearly three hour meeting. Amanda Collins, a concealed weapon holder who was raped in the University of Nevada, Reno parking garage in 2007, challenged legislators to find a good reason to disarm college students.
“All I wanted was a chance to actively defend myself,” she said, testifying remotely. “I believe in empowering women with the choice to protect their bodies.”
Yet numerous campus police and faculty groups testified against the bill, saying it would bring guns in to sensitive areas and would impose rules into schools that generally don’t want concealed weapons on campus. Nevada System of Higher Education administrator and former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said the measure was a politically charged “co-opting” of substantial issues with sexual assault on college campuses.
“I can tell you, I have never come across a solution that includes arming individuals on college campuses,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press.
“The gun rights advocates have co-opted this important argument and redefined it to suit their agenda.”
The bill itself would affect only a small number of college students.
Nevada colleges rarely receive applications for concealed weapons, and those that do usually reject them, according to records obtained by The AP.
Over the past two years, Nevada colleges received a total of 19 applications for concealed weapon permits, mainly at the University of Nevada, Reno. Five were approved.
Fiore said the bill would primarily affect non-students and would help prevent campus sexual assaults by arming at-risk students. UNR professor Lisa Thomas testified that a contentious issue with a student made her fear for her safety until campus police responded.
“The reality was that we were alone and defenseless with an agitated and very scary individual until they arrived,” she said.
The bill also is opposed by the Clark County School District, numerous state faculty groups and Everytown for Gun Safety.
The national gun-safety group, backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, released a television advertisement Wednesday attacking Fiore over the bill and other legislation seeking to expand concealed gun laws.