Wednesday was a deeply emotional day for both lawmakers and testifiers at legislature; discussion on whether concealed weapons should be permitted on Nevada’s college campuses spurred verbal attacks between individuals on both sides of the debate, and eventually tears shed down the cheeks of one assemblyman.
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore proposed Assembly Bill 143, which would allow for the carry of concealed firearms on Nevada System of Higher Education properties. One of the amendments of the bill would also give the Board of Regents the authority to set policies for restricting firearms in college dorms – and limit certain hours at which students can carry firearms for evening classes. About 65 thousand people in Nevada have a concealed carry permit; the majority of them are between ages of 51 and 62. Currently, the legal age to obtain a permit is 21.
Fiore said there are over 300 sex offenders that surround the University of Nevada, Reno and Las Vegas campuses. Under the current system, students can request permission from their university’s president to carry a concealed weapon on campus. Fiore said that only six requests out of a total of 22 that were made at NSHE campuses in the last two years have been approved.
“These are the potential predators that may take advantage of our college students,” Fiore said. “It concerns me that in the previous two year no approvals were given to students for solely personal protection.”
Emotion broke loose when Amanda Collins testified in favor of AB143. In 2007, Collins was raped in a UNR parking garage by James Biela, the man who later murdered Santa Barbara native, Brianna Denison. Collins silenced the room as she recounted her survival story in order to show support for the bill; she said she could have prevented Denison’s death if she had been carrying a firearm on campus during her attack.
“Actually living after surviving such a horrible crime seemed impossible,” Collins said. “As a woman, a firearm is the one equalizing factor when it comes to a man much larger than me. We should not hand over our safety to another individual.”
Assemblyman Jim Wheeler was deeply moved by Collins’ testimony, shedding tears as he responded to her.
“I’m sorry,” Wheeler said.
Some Nevada college students are not happy about the idea of their peers carrying weapons in classrooms. Alex Bybee, a member of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno said allowing students to carry concealed weapons could lead to an escalation of crime on campus.
“Since this piece of legislation directly impacts the students on NSHE campuses, I think it would be irresponsible to not listen to the opinions of students and the ASUN senate, and their resolution to oppose AB 143,” Bybee said.
Representatives from the UNR Police Department, Residence Hall Association and Student Services also testified in opposition of AB 143. Caden Fabbi, an ASUN Senator of Liberal Arts, said guns don’t need to be obtained by students, citing existing safety services like UNRPD, Campus Escort services and Emergency Alert System email notifications.
“School is not a place where these weapons should be, it’s a place for students to come study and learn,” Fabbi said. “The thought that there could be a firearm in a classroom is distracting to students.”
Fabbi explained that the presence of a gun in one of his classes would make him feel extremely uncomfortable. Assemblyman Ira Hansen disagreed with Fabbi’s testimony. Hansen asked Fabbi questions, including why he would feel uncomfortable with guns on campus if they’re already present off campus, and asked for Fabbi’s opinion on removing UNRPD from campus since they carry weapons as well.
“[This bill] is a number one concern,” Fabbi said. “Students would not want the police to be removed from campus; UNRPD is trusted.”