Gun control debate reaches Nevada

The Nevada Legislature last week took up three measures relating to self-defense rights, including a bill that would allow public school and university system employees with concealed-weapon permits to carry their guns at work.

Senate Bill 223, offered by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, would require employees choosing to carry their weapons to notify the campus president or school principal.

Duncan Mackie, representing the Nevada Firearms Coalition, spoke in support, saying that turning schools into gun-free zones has given would-be assailants confidence that no one there will be capable of shooting back. Events of recent years give unhappy evidence that he’s right.

While all citizens legally authorized to carry concealed weapons — not just employees — should be able to carry their guns on school grounds, Mr. Mackie said, the bill is a step in the right direction.

Higher education system Chancellor Dan Klaich disagreed, saying that while the system asks a lot of its faculty, it does not ask them to form an armed patrol.

But that’s disingenuous. Sen. Hardy’s bill doesn’t call for faculty to be assigned to armed patrol, like it or not. It merely says those who want to exercise their natural, constitutional right to bear arms must be allowed to do so.

Those who assert that guns don’t belong on campus may not have thought the question through. Are they saying that, in the event police are called (all too frequently arriving after harm is done), they expect the officers to leave their firearms at the station? Of course not. So why disarm willing, law-abiding civilians who might be able to respond more quickly, or whose very presence might deter aggression?

The Assembly Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing today on Michele Fiore’s related “campus carry” measure, AB143, as well as on AB234, a contrarian proposal from Majority Leader William Horne that would subject private firearms transfers (including among family members) to government background checks, ban certain types of ammunition and impose new taxes of $25 per firearm and 2 cents per round of ammo.

Any lawmaker who doubts Mr. Horne’s proposal is intended to infringe the right to keep and bear arms should simply add an amendment requiring the same background checks and taxes on the transfer of any Bible or Quran, along with a non-severability clause, inviting the courts to thus treat the First and Second amendments identically.

The second self-defense bill, Senate Bill 226, offered by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, would repeal Clark County’s handgun registration system.

Chuck Callaway, representing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, calls the registration requirement a valuable investigative tool. He cited a case in which a young woman was murdered and the weapon was traced to her landlord through registration records.

Las Vegas police officials, who for years have stonewalled requests to provide statistical evidence of the efficacy of their registration system in either preventing or helping to solve crimes, are to be congratulated for finally breaking their silence. We now await full statistics on how many crimes have been solved thanks to the county “blue card” registration system over the past 65 years, both as a whole number and as a percentage, so the public can determine for itself whether it’s worth the cost and inconvenience, given that those who intend to commit crimes are the least likely to register their guns and the most likely to use a stolen gun.

The final Senate measure, Senate Bill 137, would repeal the state requirement to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon, at all.

Law-abiding citizens can carry weapons openly without a permit now, and they should be able to carry those weapons discreetly without obtaining a costly and time-consuming permit, says Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, the sponsor.

Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming already allow what’s referred to as “constitutional carry” — bearing concealed arms without any state permit — and there’s been no perceptible increase in crime in those jurisdictions. In fact, crime rates are notably low in these states, and especially Vermont, where citizens have carried without permits at least since 1791. Perhaps those who worry that restoring this constitutional right would cause a crime wave can explain that.

All three Senate bills — and Ms. Fiore’s AB143 — deserve a thorough airing and a vote.

Reminding us of the larger picture, Henry St. George Tucker wrote in the 1768 edition of Blackstone’s “Commentaries of the Laws of England,” with which our founders were well-familiar: “The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction.”

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