Infographic by Nicole Kowalewski /Nevada Sagebrush

Infographic by Nicole Kowalewski /Nevada Sagebrush

By Jacob Solis

Legislators, educators and community members alike converged in Carson City to discuss and debate Assembly Bill 2 on Feb. 4. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, seeks to revise a current Nevada law that makes it a gross misdemeanor for most citizens to bring weapons onto school campuses and childcare facilities.

The only people currently exempt from the law are police officers and individuals who have specifically applied for a permit to carry their weapon on campus. AB 2 would change the existing landscape by authorizing anybody to bring a weapon onto a school campus as long as that weapon remains inside a locked or occupied car.

The broad choice of words has drawn the ire of several critics, including Associated Students of the University of Nevada Sen. Nick Andrew. Andrew, who represents the Interdisciplinary program in ASUN, has drafted a resolution condemning the bill’s language to be decided upon in the coming weeks.

“AB 2 would allow anyone, whether they have a concealed carry permit or not, to have a weapon in their car,” Andrew said. “Our fear is that the presence of weapons, not just on college campuses, but on K-12 campuses and day cares as well, will create more risks to the health and safety of students.”

Those in favor of AB 2 have addressed concern by stressing that the bill is only a parking bill, existing to make it easier for weapon-owners to park on school campuses without committing a crime, and is not a “campus carry” bill. As such, the bill has also taken criticism from the conservative right, where detractors claim it does not go far enough.

“AB 2 is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Adam Khan, University of Nevada, Reno student and member of the UNR College Republicans. “But if our goal is to give law-abiding students the highest degree of freedom and safety, then we need to allow those with concealed carry licenses to carry on campus. [We need to] legalize campus carry.”

Campus carry, or the idea that weapons belonging to those with concealed carry licenses should be allowed on school campuses, was first proposed during the 2013 legislative session but fell short of being passed when it died in committee. However, due to the recent influx of Republican legislators, state GOP leaders are revisiting the issue with Bill Draft 20-242, the newest legal iteration of campus carry.

Proponents of campus carry have repeatedly defended the idea that guns would make schools safer, specifically mentioning the mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary. These supporters echo the words of Executive Vice President of the National Rifle Association Wayne LaPierre, who, following the shooting at Sandy Hook, said succinctly, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Beyond mass shootings, supporters have also noted that being able to have a gun on campus would allow a greater measure of self-defense in situations such as rape, robbery or other violent crime and would serve as a deterrent to criminals.

Even so, many remain unconvinced that any form of campus carry is necessary.

“The original argument [used in the last legislative session] that campus carry enables individuals to have effective means of self defense does have some merit,” said Quinn Jonas, ASUN senator for the College of Liberal Arts. “However, there are certain issues with introducing firearms to campuses, where the second leading cause of death among college students is suicide.”

Jonas noted that suicides attempted with firearms are 85 percent effective, and expressed concern that having firearms on campus would lead to a decline to mental health on campus, as more troubled students would sooner attempt suicide than seek help.

Andrew reiterated his colleague’s concerns over suicide and expressed additional worries over the risk of shooting accidents, citing the 1996 death of Lindsay Alba. Alba, a McQueen High School student, was killed while sitting in a car when a .22 caliber rifle being kept in the car went off accidentally.

Andrew also expressed doubt over the soundness of the argument that guns would serve to make campuses safer.

“From what I’ve been able to dig up, there’s never been a recorded incidence on a college campus where a victim or a witness to a violent crime has prevented it by brandishing a weapon,” Andrew said. “There’s been testimony by many campus police departments across the country and by the FBI that in an active shooting situation, having extra people with weapons who are not trained emergency responders only makes the situation worse.”

Ultimately, AB 2 represents the beginning of a long debate over gun law in Nevada. Many legislators on the left have denounced the bill as the first stop on the road to full campus carry while those on the right, who also carry the majority, seek to expand traditionally strict state gun laws, evidenced by Bill Draft 20-242.

Each side has fervent supporters and ardent detractors, and as the debate over AB 2 has already shown, neither will go quietly into the night.

Jacob Solis can be reached at and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.