Pahrump students to help shape Nevada gun policy

Updated March 9, 2018 - 9:17 am

Pahrump area high school students are set to be involved in shaping the future of gun legislation in Nevada following multiple demonstrations in the area.

Student representatives from Pahrump Valley High School are going to be a part of roundtable discussions with Nevada Assemblyman James Oscarson and others in the coming weeks that could help form future gun legislation in the state.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to put together a piece of legislation that we can take to the legislative session, in the 2019 session,” Oscarson said.

The group of students is being picked by Pahrump Valley High School Principal Jennifer Ehrheart, Oscarson said.

The roundtable stems from a planned walkout by students at the Pahrump high school on March 1, which didn’t go as it was originally planned by students.

“When the administration learned about the walkout, we wanted student voices to be heard,” Ehrheart said. “We arranged for Assemblyman James Oscarson, Social Worker Melissa Arnett and the Nye County Sheriff’s Office to listen to students’ questions and concerns.”

Walkout day

Dozens of high school students went to the gym at Pahrump Valley to voice their concerns about school safety and other issues.

The roundtable being planned by Oscarson is the culmination of that event and others throughout the area and across the country. In February, more than 100 students walked to the front gates of Rosemary Clarke Middle School in a “monitored” walkout.

But the trigger behind the local efforts to reduce gun violence in schools and push for more legislation started with tragedy.

In Parkland, Florida, 17 were killed and more than a dozen injured during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

A former student, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, was formally charged by a Florida grand jury on 17 counts of murder on March 7 in the mass shooting.

Cruz allegedly used an AR-15-style rifle, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15, in the Feb. 14 attack, according to a police report.

Since then, movements across the nation have led to hundreds of students walking out of classrooms and schools.

Pahrump efforts

Local students are interested in getting their voices heard on the issue.

“Schools all over the country are doing this, and we just thought that it would be nice to get involved,” said Pahrump Valley High School student Mariah Prunchak prior to the walkout. “Because a lot of us aren’t able to vote yet, so being able to have this as an opportunity to have a voice is really important.”

Prunchak said many of the students have different views on what type of gun legislation they want to come to fruition.

“Basically, it’s a mixture of having stricter gun laws and better mental health background (checks) when trying to purchase a gun,” she said.

Oscarson is hoping to hear opinions of this nature within the next couple of weeks, when he’s hoping the meetings about crafting future legislation will come together.

“I am more and more impressed with the caliber of the youth that we have in this community and their thoughtfulness and their concerns they have,” Oscarson said. “They’re our leaders of tomorrow. We need to pay attention to them and listen to them and hear what they have to say. But most importantly to implement things to deal with their concerns.”

Prunchak said she felt like the event was taken over by the school and the administration.

Oscarson took questions from students during the March 1 event in the gymnasium at the high school, though Prunchak wasn’t totally satisfied with Oscarson’s responses.

“We all felt that he kept going in circles about what we were asking, repeating the same things and avoiding our actual questions,” she said. “I think he thought we were a bunch of kids that didn’t know what we were talking about, but we proved him wrong.”

Prunchak, however, does see a positive outcome from her and other students’ efforts on the issue.

“I think because of us he’s (Oscarson) going to have to really put an effort into this issue we brought to his attention; which was the whole point, because our generation is the future, and we stood up for what we believe in, and that’s so important,” she said. “I’m grateful for all of the students that came together, even if it didn’t go the way we planned.”

The Nye County Sheriff’s Office also took part in the gathering at the high school on March 1.

Preparedness efforts

The sheriff’s office has partnered with SafeVoice Nevada, an anonymous tip line established by the Nevada Department of Education.

The line was implemented through Nevada Senate Bill 212, which passed during the 2017 legislative session.

And, in partnership with the Nevada Department of Public Safety, SafeVoice provides students with a safe place to submit tips concerning their own safety and others, according to information on the state’s education department website about SafeVoice.

Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said the office has “received numerous tips; however, it is difficult to identify accuracy when the information is anonymous.”

Wehrly said the sheriff’s office has worked to prepare in case an event were to occur.

“The response preparation plans and return to normal ops plans have been tested and tried,” Wehrly said. “Corrective actions have been identified and corrections have been implemented. As a county and sheriff’s office we are as prepared as humanly possible; however no one is entirely prepared for this in any other disaster. Each has its own characteristics and complications.”

The Nye County School District has also released a statement on some recent threats made on area schools and other safety concerns at schools. A press release from Nye County School District Superintendent Dale Norton sent out a release stating he’s directed all of the district’s principals to “review all site safety plans with the site safety teams.”

Principals were then required to meet with all site employees by today (Friday) “to discuss any updates and reviews of the site safety plan for school violence,” according to the release.

Parents, legal guardians and students can also all play an active role in keeping schools safe, according to information in the news release.

School Safety Concerns 18.03.05 by Pahrump Valley Times on Scribd

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at