CARSON CITY — Gun owners packed an Assembly hearing Wednesday to support a bill that would allow people to have guns on school grounds in their vehicles.
“This is not a campus carry bill,” Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said of his proposal, Assembly Bill 2.
It’s the first of several gun bills expected to be considered by lawmakers this session.
Wednesday’s hearing was a preview of the heated debates to come when the Republican-controlled Legislature takes up other measures such as allowing people with concealed weapon permits to carry guns on Nevada’s college campuses.
Under existing law, it is a gross misdemeanor to carry or possess a weapon on the property of Nevada System of Higher Education, private or public school or a child care facility.
AB2 would allow guns in a vehicle if the vehicle is occupied, locked, or the weapon is secured in a locked container.
Dave Sayer, a concealed-weapon permit holder, said it took him a year to clear up criminal charges after someone entered his locked car at Reed High School in Sparks and found his gun. That person reported it and he was detained by school police.
But critics countered there was no reason for the bill and it would potentially make school grounds more dangerous.
“I’m concerned that in an effort to fix one narrow issue, this bill simply creates a much bigger issue,” said former state Sen. Justin Jones.
Jones, D-Las Vegas, pushed a gun background check bill through the 2013 Legislature, which was controlled by Democrats, before it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. He became a target for conservatives and lost re-election in November to Republican newcomer Becky Harris.
Other opponents said having guns, even in locked cars on school grounds, would make weapons more accessible.
Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, a teacher, said it makes her “uneasy” and questioned why someone would leave a gun in their car.
“What good does a gun do for you in a locked vehicle?” asked the North Las Vegas Democrat.
But backers of the bill said it would allow them to keep their weapons responsibly without running afoul of the law.
“We do need to protect ourselves,” said Lynn Chapman of Nevada Families for Freedom. “The world is crazy out there.”
While proponents of the bill frequently referenced concealed-weapon permit holders, there is nothing in the measure limiting its scope to permit holders.
“A lot of people in this state open carry,” said Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Minden. “This bill would protect them as well.”
Nevada’s university system and some school districts were neutral on the bill, saying they are working with backers on possible amendments.
No action was taken by the committee.