Currently, individuals seeking to carry concealed weapons on a university or college campus can seek permission from the president to do so. This bill would force NSHE to revoke all policies that monitor the presence of concealed weapons on its campuses.
Such bills have been introduced in many states over the past few years, as part of a concerted effort by the gun industry lobby, which argues that such measures are necessary for public safety and claims campuses are unsafe because of a presumed insufficient number of concealed guns.
Lengthy studies of the issue of gun safety on campus, including the official report of the Virginia Tech inquiry following the tragic shooting there in 2007, suggest the best way to ensure safety on campus is to reduce the number or prevent entirely the presence of unauthorized guns on campus.
(Note that the Virginia Tech shooting itself was carried out by a student who had a history of mental illness but could have legally acquired a concealed carry permit under Nevada law while most of his victims, as minors, could not legally have carried weapons, concealed or not, to defend themselves.) The Brady Center, which researches gun safety, produced a lengthy report on campus gun safety and found such measures as SB231 greatly increase the risk of a violent event on campus.
"...far from saving lives, guns on campus would dramatically increase gun violence risks to college students and trample on academic freedom. Despite the massacre at Virginia Tech, college campuses are safer than the communities that surround them, precisely because those institutions have barred or tightly controlled firearms. We need to support those institutions, not strip them of the ability to control firearms on campus."
The Brady Center's list of reasons why there should be safe oversight of guns on campus, is published here.
Under current Nevada law, and System of Higher Education policy, anyone legally holding a permit to carry concealed weapons in the state can carry their weapon on campus if they request and receive written permission from the campus president. This policy enables reasonable requests -- such as undercover peace officers attending classes or individuals who may have a reasonable need to fend off an identified potential threat in the workplace - to carry their weapons safely. It also allows campus public safety units to set policies, including policies for responding to hostile shooters, in accordance with the expectation that most students, faculty and visitors to campus are not secretly armed.
The proposed law would change all that and force the System of Higher Education, its campus presidents, its public safety units, and its faculty and students to revoke all oversight of the safe and legal practice of concealed carry permits that exists currently. It would force public safety units to develop new policies and procedures which presume faculty, staff, students and visitors are armed secretly, and it would put presidents and campuses in an unenviable position of having no authority to oversee gun safety on their campus.
Finally, it would almost certainly, history shows, increase the likelihood of a violent shooting on an NSHE campus.
Note that such bills have been proposed -- and rejected -- here and elsewhere in the past. In 2007, the NSHE Board of Regents rejected a proposal for faculty to be trained and armed. Just last week, the Florida state Senate's majority (its Republican caucus) amended a very similar bill to remove the provision forcing campuses to end all oversight and all policies that ensure gun safety. This was because the state of Florida had witnessed a horrific shooting on the Florida State University campus, when a student shot another with an AK-47 rifle during a fraternity party while the victim's sister watched in horror and then tried, in vain, to revive her.
Note as well that the Florida bill, as amended, and current Nevada state law do not prevent the carrying of concealed weapons on a campus or school; they simply require prior authorization be given by the campus president's office to an individual licensed for concealed carry.
There are two other reasons we oppose this bill. First, it would only further damage the credibility and reputation of our already battered System of Higher Education which is going to be hard-pressed to retain and recruit competitive faculty and students due to our worst-in-the-nation budget crisis for higher education.
Secondly and more importantly it is entirely unnecessary. Campuses are required to, and do, publish crime statistics and these show that NSHE's campuses are not unsafe. Indeed, the UNLV campus data shows that crime incidents are considerably less frequent on campus than in the surrounding neighborhoods. Public Safety directors from NSHE campuses will testify to this point at Friday's hearing.
In short, there is simply no need, and much danger, inherent in this bill.
We welcome legislator's concern for the well-being and safety of our students, our faculty and our campuses. And we therefore urge them to consider but reject this bill.
The best way to enhance the safety, and well-being, let alone the education of Nevada's students is to find adequate funding to preserve access and quality in our System of Higher Education. We are eager to work with them in that endeavor.