By Conner Board and Walanya Vongsvirates
CARSON CITY, Nev. – Expected to be one of the most controversial bills of this session, the drama of Assembly Bill 148 played out as anticipated, with lively and often heated debate during its hearing before the Assembly Judiciary on Thursday.
Dozens of people were forced into overflow rooms at the Nevada Legislature, prepared to voice their support and opposition for AB148. This hot topic bill would allow citizens with a concealed weapons permit to carry on Nevada educational facilities and campuses. This bill language includes college campuses, high schools, and even day care facilities. Gun owners would also be allowed to carry inside Nevada airports in all secure areas that do not go beyond the TSA checkpoint.
The committee hearing lasted nearly three hours as nine people from both sides of the issue, 18 total, passionately shared their opinions on the bill.
Speaking in favor of the bill was former UNR student and rape victim Amanda Collins, whose rape case is what prompted lawmakers to add “Amanda’s Law” into the campus carry bill. “Amanda’s Law” would allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry a concealed firearm inside public buildings, unless the building has a metal detector at each public entrance or a sign posted at each public entrance indicating that no firearms are allowed inside the building.
Assemblywoman and Bill Sponsor Michele Fiore first introduced this legislation during the 2013 session, where it did not pass. The addition of “Amanda’s Law” is the main difference from the 2013 bill language.
“All I wanted was a chance to effectively defend myself. That choice shouldn’t be mandated by the government,” said Collins in her testimony before the committee on Thursday.
Collins claimed that if she had been able to carry her concealed weapon, the rape would have never occurred. At the time of her attack, Collins had her CCW but due to Nevada law, was not allowed to have it with her on campus.
“While my body was being ripped apart, I knew no one was coming to help me,” Collins said. “How does rendering me defenseless protect you against a violent crime?”
John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, also spoke in favor of AB148. Lott shared data from his research supporting the idea that concealed weapons would reduce crime.
“The only people you’re disarming are the victims in this case,” said Lott.
According to Lott, in past mass shooting incidents, perpetrators look for gun-free zones to commit crimes.
Those opposed to the bill cited accidental discharge of weapons, and the implied risks of mixing alcohol and guns on a University campus as reasons not to pass the legislation.
Former Attorney General and current Executive Vice Chancellor for the Nevada System of Higher Education, Catherine Cortez Masto, spoke out against the campus carry bill.
“Why are we passing a law that benefits a minority instead of the majority of individuals attending our campuses?” asked Masto. “The regulation of firearms on campuses is an important function of our campus safety policies and is best left to the discretion of the Board of Regents as recognized under current law.”
Masto reminded the committee that most students and faculty do not think guns on campus are necessary, and reassured committee members that NSHE and the Board of Regents place a great level of importance on security.
“This is a solution in search of a problem,” said Masto.
The Associated Students of the University of Nevada Senate also presented a resolution to oppose the bill.
“I feel that there are students that would not come to this campus if this bill were to pass,” said Caden Fabbi, speaker of the senate.
Fabbi added that campus carry would detract from the “free-flowing” education at Nevada institutions of learning.
No amendments to the bill language were presented during the hearing. The committee will continue to work on the bill before it is voted on in the Assembly and subsequently sent to the Senate for further review.
If you are unable to go to Carson for the next hearing, the Nevada Legislature live streams their committee hearings on their website at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtags #nvleg or #AB148.