I see Kyle Gillis of the Nevada Journal posted a piece last week on the dogged fight of local prison guard Patrick Mendez against the dangerous hoplophobe policies of the College of Southern Nevada — until recently more appropriately dubbed the Community College of Southern Nevada (www.npri.org).
Mr. Mendez is also waging a GOP primary battle for the honor of taking on popular Democrat Steven Brooks this fall in state Assembly District 17, north of Craig Road.
Mendez, whose job with the Nevada Department of Prisons means he’s a sworn peace officer, started taking courses at the college more than a year ago, aiming toward a degree in criminal justice. What he discovered there may have played a role in getting him interested in politics.
Although Nevada is an "open carry" state, and peace officers frequently carry at least an ankle gun in case of emergency, Mr. Mendez quickly ascertained he was prohibited from carrying his handgun on the CSN campus.
Mendez was told to talk to the chief of campus police, which he did, working his way up the bureaucratic maze from there.
He was told his peace-officer status didn’t exempt him from the college’s supposedly strict no-weapons policy. (In fact, I’ve never seen such a policy strict enough to require uniformed cops to leave their sidearms in their cars, despite the fact the Second and 14th amendments carve out for the police no more rights in this area than they allow you or me.)
"This law is so prohibitive that without written permission I cannot leave my weapon secured in my vehicle in the parking lot of the campus, which leaves me defenseless on my way to and from school." Mendez told the April 20 meeting of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.
"As a correctional officer, I deal with a lot of troubled people: drug dealers, gang members, murderers," Mendez told the Nevada Journal. "I’m not just carrying a weapon for the sake of carrying one. My line of work opens itself to a lot of threats, and I constantly need to be on guard."
Nevada Revised Statute 202.265 prohibits weapons on the property of schools but lists several exemptions, one of which is for a "peace officer."
But CSN’s weapons policy simply ignores the peace officer exemption, stating "dangerous weapons, including handguns, are not permitted on campus without the express written approval of the President. This policy shall apply to all persons on the campus except law enforcement officers in the performance of their duties."
When Mendez got no help from CSN President Michael Richards, he contacted Andrea Anderson, his District 12 regent.
"Ms. Anderson effectively told me I was wasting my time, because she agreed with the policy, and [I] wouldn’t convince her to change it," Mendez said.
Anderson told the Nevada Journal, "My personal belief is the less guns on campus, the better."
I hear this statement a lot, and I still can’t make any sense of it.
If a shooting breaks out on campus, as it did at Virginia Tech in 2007 (32 dead, 17 wounded), or at a commercial establishment, as in the infamous 1991 massacre at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas (23 dead, 20 wounded), the fewest possible number of guns that can be present – one – is the worst possible scenario.
Shootings at places like Appalachian School of Law (2002), the high school in Pearl, Miss. (1997), or the New Life Church in Colorado Springs (2007) have been cut short, the number of victims held much lower, precisely because one or more armed good guys were present to either shoot or hold the crazed assailant at gunpoint till backup arrived.
But in the case of the 1991 Luby’s Cafeteria massacre, Suzanne Gratia Hupp watched 35-year-old George Hennard murder both her parents – her mother as she cradled her dying husband’s head in her lap – because she’d left he own handgun outside in her car, as then required by state law.
Again and again, disarming law-abiding citizens only leaves them defenseless in the face of a crazed killer, vastly increasing the death toll of innocent civilians.
At the last legislative session, Nevada state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, introduced SB 231, which would have allowed individuals with concealed-carry permits to carry their weapons on state college campuses without seeking "permission" from college presidents. Lee’s bill passed the Senate but was buried in committee in the Democratic Assembly. Needless to say, it was opposed by numerous traditional enemies of the Bill of Rights, including the UNLV Faculty Alliance.
But Sen. Lee’s bill didn’t go far enough.
There’s no question here of private property owners deciding to bar gun owners from their premises. Especially on government property, the Second and 14th amendments are the highest law of the land. All Nevadans are legally authorized by their state and federal constitutions to carry their firearms in or on any public park, sidewalk, library, street or state college campus. And any legislator or judge who attempts to legislate, rule or hold otherwise should be impeached and disbarred … for starters.
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Things were looking up for local restaurateur Raj Patel last week, after both U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and his Democratic challenger, Rep. Shelley Berkley – not to mention state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who may well be our newest congresswoman by winter – wrote to officials at the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, assuring them Mr. Patel’s plans to bring in two chefs from India on work visas (already OK’d by U.S. Labor and Immigration officials, based on their findings that the chefs’ presence would help create a dozen new local jobs) were on the up-and-up.
But the embassy personnel proved intransigent.
In an email to one of Sen. Heller’s staffers, Mr. Patel last week described the results of follow-up interviews on May 25: "Unbelievable, both men denied visas and humiliated in the process."
Apparently, the embassy staff accused the two chefs of having worked in this country while here on earlier visitor visas, now arbitrarily canceled. The great irony is that half the restaurant kitchens in Las Vegas probably employ illegal aliens, with minimal interference from our local see-no-evil immigration agents. But those illegals tend to hail from Mexico or Central America, of course, with which we share a large and porous border.
If Raj Patel had in fact hired the men to work while here on their visitor visas, simply advising them to overstay those visas for a year or two – instead of sending them home to wait while he spent thousands of dollars applying for work visas, doing everything by the book – they’d probably be happily churning out chicken korma and lamb vindaloo in Las Vegas today.
"Today I was hoping to think how will I open (my) Thai restaurant, and what kind of interior improvements I need to make," wrote a disappointed Raj Patel, last week. "Instead I’m faced with how to tell my current employees that I will be laying them off and probably closing the restaurant and lose $350,000."
Later in the week, Raj Patel said his temporary chef, who works from the recipes of Tilak Raj (one of the men denied visas), has agreed to stay on at Saffron on Craig Road at least through the summer. At that point, the current cook will return to engineering school; Patel makes no promises beyond that.
"I would like to talk with the interviewer and tell him my side of the story, but it seems impossible as they barricade themselves in the embassy. They have no one to answer to."
Patel is right. Embassy officials won’t return my phone calls, either. (Yes, I waited till after 9 p.m. so as to call during business hours in New Delhi, ready with not just one but the names of three current officials in the visa office to ask for, starting with Counselor for Consular Affairs James Herman and his subaltern, Josh Glazeroff. All were either absent or "busy.")
"Tilak (one of the chefs) had to take a bus 16 hours down to the embassy," Patel writes. "His bus had an accident on the way; luckily he was not injured like some others on the bus. Nonetheless, he made it to New Delhi only to be turned down. He was told not to waste his time and our time."
Some – more worldly than me, I guess – have suggested Raj Patel should simply have found a professional smuggler to have the men brought in through Mexico (Where? In the Yellow Pages?), or else contacted someone "in the know" in New Delhi to find out who to bribe to get the proper stamp on the already-issued work visas.
Where there is no presumption of innocence, where there is no known course – however onerous – that can guarantee a happy result by following the rules, what else would we expect many folks to try next?
Is that what things have come to, with our embassy in New Delhi? Does anyone care?
Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and author of the novel "The Black Arrow" and the collection of non-fiction essays "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.