Las Vegas Sun

November 24, 2015

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Memo from Carson City:

Two Nevada lawmakers say arming school personnel worth considering

Nevada conservatives cherish the Second Amendment, but they hate taxes. So the idea of putting armed security in every U.S. school, proposed by the National Rifle Association in response to the deadly school shooting in Connecticut, has fallen flat among Nevada's Republicans, in part because of the cost.

But another idea — to allow teachers and administrators to carry guns on school campuses — has gotten at least initial endorsement from two Republican legislators.

On Dec. 21, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called in a news conference for "every single school in America (to) immediately deploy a protection program proven to work, and by that I mean armed security."

He called on Congress to allocate the money to pay for it.

But in lieu of that, it would fall to states or school districts, a proposal that Nevada conservatives and Republicans said isn't fiscally feasible.

"The concept of putting that many additional cops on duty, I'm not sure the populace would agree to that amount of tax increase," said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, a rancher who is sponsoring laws to ease the state's concealed carry permit laws.

The Clark County School District, a spokesman for which said there would be no comment on the NRA's plan, has a police force of 149 officers for 357 schools. But adding enough officers to patrol every school would come after the district reduced teaching positions this year.

"Who's going to pay for it?" said Chuck Muth, a conservative activist. "The state of Nevada can't afford it. The federal government is going over a fiscal cliff. I don't think that's the answer."

But conservatives including Muth pointed to stories from Utah of teachers flocking to free gun training seminars.

That idea brought more enthusiasm, in part because it would cost less.

Freshman Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, has requested a bill that would allow students to carry guns on university and college campuses. A similar bill failed last session.

Fiore said for now, she's focusing only on allowing permitted students to carry firearms on higher education campuses. But she is listening to ideas about how to improve K-12 safety, including whether to allow guns in those schools.

"We have teachers in our school systems who are trained and willing to protect our children with their firearms," Fiore said. "This has the potential to be a very low cost solution to a very serious and growing national problem of school safety."

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, was more adamant. A co-sponsor of the law that would allow guns on higher education campuses, he said he supports allowing teachers and administrators to carry weapons at schools.

One or two police officers at every school would become targets for a shooter, he said, adding "they can't watch every entrance and exit." Allowing trained teachers and other school employees to carry guns would serve as a warning for would-be shooters. If guns were allowed in schools, a potential gunman would be wary to enter, the senator said.

"There's a good chance someone is carrying a gun on campus, and you don't know who it is," Gustavson said.

Passage of any of these proposals would be extremely difficult. The Senate and Assembly are controlled by Democrats. And while Nevada Democrats are much more gun friendly than their brethren on the East Coast or in California, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, has said gun rights in Nevada have gone far enough. He said one of his goals in the 2013 Legislature is to look at ways to control "weapons of mass destruction."

The state teachers union also does not support the idea.

Nick Di Archangel, spokesman for the Nevada State Education Association, said adding guns to school settings would create "an arms race."

"This idea opens so many questions that cannot be answered at all," Di Archangel said. "Teacher and student safety has to be priority No. 1. Keeping guns out of schools — that's what we need to focus on, not putting guns into schools."

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