Newspaper column: Lawmakers should narrow, not expand gun-free zones

Lawmakers in Carson City continue to exhibit rabid hoplophobia — fear of guns. A bill has been introduced to further extend gun-free zones to public libraries and their parking lots. Senate Bill 115, introduced by state Sen. Mo Denis of Las Vegas, would add public libraries to the current law, which already prohibits guns and other weapons in the buildings and parking lots of universities, public and private schools and childcare facilities. Now, we have no problem with the private owners of land and buildings demanding that visitors come unarmed, and the state is surely the owner or custodian of universities and public schools. Though why lawmakers should be allowed to dictate to private schools and private childcare facilities is beyond us.

Additionally, this bill is a pointless endeavor that does nothing but add needless paperwork and wastes time, because every library district in the state has the power to control its own grounds and facilities. The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District already has a policy barring arms inside buildings and has guards who check to make sure that the holster on your belt holds a cellphone and not a handgun.

This law would require someone to get written permission to bring his or her weapon onto a library parking lot or into a library building.

During a recent committee meeting on the bill, Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson of Las Vegas, said, “I’m concerned that if these libraries don’t have adequate security that what we’re doing is we’re telling the public that we’re creating gun-free zones. And those here that want this bill can disagree with me but there have been studies that show gun-free zones are a magnet for criminal activity and mass shooters.”

He said the bill undermines law abiding Nevadans and actually endangers the public.

Republican state Sen. Don Gustavson — who represents all of Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Pershing and parts of Nye and Washoe counties — echoed Roberson’s concerns about creating gun-free zones. He asked rhetorically whether one would have a quicker response by pulling out a cellphone and calling 9-1-1 or pulling out a weapon. He said many in his district carry concealed weapons wherever they go.

According to the Nevada Firearms Coalition, since about 1950, more than 95 percent of all mass shootings in America have taken place where law-abiding citizens are banned from carrying guns.

Most puzzling is why it is a crime to have a gun in your car in the parking lot of these facilities. In fact, in the 2015 legislative session Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced a bill that would have allowed guns in vehicles at the aforementioned locales. A hearing on the bill was packed with proponents and opponents. A digest of the bill stated it would add an exception to the law so that a person would not be prohibited from possessing a weapon on those specific grounds if it were inside a locked or occupied motor vehicle. Seemed like a common sense approach, but it never got out of committee.

So people who are accustomed to keeping a pistol in the glove compartment or a rifle in a gun rack or the trunk are breaking the law if they drop their children off on school or daycare parking lots or visit a college campus. Now this bill would add public libraries, even if one is dropping a book at an outside collection box. Having a gun in the parking lot is not as good as having one on your person if the need arises. Just ask the vice principal of the Pearl, Miss., school who had to run a quarter mile to his vehicle to retrieve a gun to stop a shooter.

In October of 1997 a young man showed up on a school campus carrying a .30-30 rifle. He fatally shot two students. At the sound of gunshots, the vice principal ran a quarter of a mile to his truck, because the school was declared by law to be a gun-free zone, to recover and load his pistol before returning to campus, where he captured and disarmed the gunman and held him for four minutes until police could arrive. This could be an opportunity for an enterprising lawmaker to show some common sense for a change. Amend SB115 by adding the parking lot exception offered by Hambrick two years ago. That would not go far enough but would be a move in the right direction. Also, let library districts set their own policies.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

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Bill would add public libraries to gun-free zones

Lawmakers in Carson City continue to exhibit rabid hoplophobia.

A bill has been introduced to further extend gun-free zones to public libraries and their parking lots. Senate Bill 115, introduced by state Sen. Mo Denis, would add public libraries to the current law, which prohibits guns and other weapons in the buildings and parking lots of universities, public and private schools and childcare facilities.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled on the bill for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Nevada Firearms Coalition is urging people to contact the committee members to oppose the bill and register their opposition at a legislative web page.

Now, we have no problem with the owners of land and buildings demanding that visitors come unarmed and the state is surely the owner or custodian of universities and public schools, but why should the state dictate to private schools and private childcare facilities? But most of all, why make it a crime to have a gun in your car in the parking lot?

In fact, in 2015 session Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced a bill that would have allowed guns in occupied or locked vehicles at the aforementioned locales. A hearing on the bill was packed with proponents and opponents.

Its digest stated:

Existing law generally makes it a gross misdemeanor to carry or possess certain weapons while on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a private or public school or a child care facility, or while in a vehicle of a private or public school or a child care facility except in certain circumstances. (NRS 202.265) This bill adds an exception so that a person is not prohibited from possessing such weapons on the property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, a private or public school or a child care facility if the weapon remains out of public view and if the weapon is: (1) inside a motor vehicle that is occupied or, if the motor vehicle is unoccupied, the motor vehicle is locked; or (2) stored in a locked container that is affixed securely to the motor vehicle. 

Seems like a common sense approach, but it never got out of committee.

Having a gun in the parking lot is not as good as having one on your person if the need arises, but tell that to the vice principal of the Pearl, Miss., school who had to run a quarter mile to car to retrieve a gun to stop a shooter.

Vin Suprynowicz recounted in a newspaper column in 2012:

Law-abiding Americans with guns have an impressive record of cutting short the mayhem of would-be mass killers. In a shooting in Pearl, Miss., in October 1997, young Luke Woodham had slit his mother’s throat before carrying a .30-30 deer rifle to school.

Woodham fatally shot two students as Vice Principal Joel Myrick, responding quickly to the sound of shots, dashed to his truck — parked more than a quarter-mile away as required by the ‘gun-free school zone’ law — to recover and load his own Colt .45. He then raced back, captured and disarmed Woodham, holding a gun to his head for more than four minutes while waiting for police to arrive. This almost certainly saved lives, as Woodham had declared his intent to also shoot up another nearby school.

Pearl, Miss., school shooter.

Pearl, Miss., school shooter.