On Monday, April 6, the Nevada Assembly passed Assembly Bill 148 by a vote of 24-15. The bill, which has garnered a fair amount of controversy in its short life, must still be passed by the state senate and signed by the governor before it becomes law. Even so, neither are expected to be hurdles and in all likelihood, AB 148 will bear Brian Sandoval’s signature by the end of the session.
AB 148, often referred to as “campus carry,” would allow concealed carry weapon permit holders to carry their weapons onto public school campuses in the state, including Nevada System of Higher Education campuses, so long as the weapon remains concealed.
Statewide public opinion on the bill has been mixed, but on college campuses, the message is clear: guns have no place at an institution of higher learning. Using the University of Nevada, Reno as an example, the vast majority of nearly every demographic on campus opposes AB 148.
Speaking in specifics, both the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, representing the undergraduate population, and the Graduate Student Association have passed resolutions in opposition AB 148. The Faculty Senate conducted a survey of UNR’s faculty in which 85 percent of respondents were in opposition to AB 148. That is to say nothing of both the administration and campus police coming out in staunch opposition to AB 148.
For the people who AB 148 affects most, who have to live with its consequences, there is no debate to be had. Nevertheless, the bill finds itself on a road free and clear of obstacles as conservative stalwarts rally to their ideal freedom, free from pesky government regulation.
It is these conservatives who are the majority in both chambers. It is these very legislators who will single-handedly make AB 148 law, and it is these very people who are about to become tyrants. By ignoring the voices of the interested minority, the Republicans of Nevada will exercise textbook tyranny of the majority.
The political philosophers who laid the bedrock of American political thought, John Adams, Alexis de Tocqueville, even the premier conservative demagogue Ayn Rand, have put in stone that this tyranny is one of the great evils of the world. In “Federalist 10,” James Madison puts his frustration simply, saying, “measures are too often decided, not according to the rules of justice and the rights of the minor party, but by the superior force of an interested and overbearing majority.”
The whole point of “Federalist 10” is to dismiss the idea that factions could form any sort of efficacy under the Constitution. The federal government is ordered in such a way that majority factions, ideally, cannot gain the power necessary to trample over a defenseless minority.
Obviously, American history shows again and again that the founders’ idealism may have been misplaced, but what is clear is that the American people know what tyranny looks like, evidenced by the struggles for suffrage, civil rights and the thousands of other battles minorities fight from day to day.
As such, the legislators in Carson City must seriously ask themselves who this bill is for. They must ask themselves which of their constituents are actually affected by AB 148 and who among these constituents actually wants to see AB 148 become law.
Whether an elected politician should adhere strictly to their constituency or abide by their own judgment is another debate entirely, but no politician should look at the majority of public opinion, even if that majority happens to be of a minority, and openly flout it. The Nevada Senate has a single chance to right the wrong of the Assembly and it must not waste it.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.