UNLV President Len Jessup broke his silence Thursday on a bill that would allow permit-holders to bring concealed weapons onto Nevada college campuses.
“UNLV joins an overwhelming number of university administrators, faculty, campus law enforcement, and students across Nevada — those on our campuses every day — who oppose legislation that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses,” Jessup said in a prepared statement sent via spokesman Tony Allen.
“Campus safety is important to the overall university experience for our students, staff and visitors, and it is an issue we take very seriously.”
Student activists criticized both Jessup and student government for not taking a stance on the issue during a rally in front of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas’ student union Wednesday afternoon. Student government and top officials at the University of Nevada in Reno spoke out against the bill weeks ago.
Former UNLV student body president Mark Ciavola has been one of the loudest voices in favor of the campus carry bill. In an editorial for a campus news outlet earlier this month, Ciavola questioned the ability of UNLV police to fully protect students, especially given the high-crime areas around campus.
“In UNLV’s most recent Annual Security Report, there were 22 instances of domestic violence or stalking reported in 2013. The report lists five forced sex offenses for that year. There was only one reported in 2012. There have been six sexual assaults reported so far this academic year. But what about the neighborhoods surrounding UNLV?” he wrote. “That entire area is teeming with violent crime.”
Ciavola said he can’t explain why student groups who support the bill would be less vocal than those against it. There are at least three campus organizations in favor of the measure, including the UNLV College Republicans, UNLV Young Americans for Liberty and the Students for Campus Carry organization.
Ciavola said that one reason students who support the legislation may be less vocal than opponents is that they may be nervous about being singled out by the university for being gun owners.
UNLV Assistant Police Chief Sandy Seda said he doesn’t buy the safety argument. Seda pointed to the college party culture and to academic and financial pressures that could affect a students mental health and lead to suicide. He said allowing guns in those situations would make things worse.
“It wouldn’t keep anyone safe on campus,” he said.
Allen said the university is opposed to any campus carry legislation, including the alternate bill Senate Bill 350, proposed by Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, which would allow weapons on campus but prohibit them at campus sporting events.
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See all of our coverage: 2015 Nevada Legislature.