The Senate Judiciary Committee met Monday morning to discuss a measure that would allow Nevada System of Higher Education employees to carry concealed weapons on campuses across the state.
Proponents of Senate Bill 223 consider the measure to be in sound conjunction with the second amendment right to bear arms. Those opposed to the bill have voiced concerns that bringing concealed firearms to school campuses could have dangerous consequences, including the hindrance of trained campus police and the instillation of fear in students and faculty members.
Advocates of the bill maintain that firearms on campuses would create a deterrent effect, allowing for safer school environments and that continuing to prohibit concealed carry makes campuses a target for violent crimes.
Duncan Rand Mackie, vice president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition spoke on behalf of the bill.
“Prohibiting firearms on school property by law abiding citizens makes the schools prime targets for those with mental or rage issues,” Mackie said.
Under current legislation in NRS 202.265, firearms are allowed on a NSHE campus only with the written permission of the president of that institution. School presidents must address requests on a case-by-case basis. This system has been carried out since 2008, and according to UNR President, Marc Johnson, the current policy works well.
“The policy requires not presidential notification, but presidential permission. This difference allows the university to review each individual request to determine whether there is a legitimate reason to carry a weapon and allows the campus police department to review the background of the employee and verify the permit prior to providing presidential permission,” Johnson said. “The policy is in place, it is used currently, it is effective, and it is not cumbersome.”
Despite the stringent policies in obtaining permission to carry a firearm on higher education campuses, many university representatives and faculty members believe that guns in schools will do more harm than good.
Vice President of Student Services at UNR, Shannon Ellis, said, “More guns in the hands of faculty and staff create unhealthy dynamics toward our students.”
Adam Garcia, director of University Police Services at UNR, stated that in the event of a campus emergency, civilians with firearms may lead to confusion when it comes to identifying a perpetrator. According to Garcia, this could impede campus police in their actions as trained officers in dangerous situations.
“An essential element of our critical incident response plans is prohibiting firearms on the campus, except by trained police officers. This removes any grey area,” Garcia said, “These gun-free policies have helped to make our postsecondary education institutions some of the safest places in the country.”
The Senate of Judiciary Committee will follow up on the SB 223 in upcoming weeks.