(Andrew Doughman/Nevada News Bureau) – Carrying a hatchet, axe, sword or knife onto the grounds of a child care center, public school or higher education campus would become a misdemeanor under a new proposal.
Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, sponsored the bill on behalf of the Washoe County School District, where she said several students attending the district’s public schools have been stabbed within the past year.
The bill would amend a list of banned items that could furnish a small armory, medieval or modern. Swords, machetes, axes, knives and hatchets would be added to billy clubs, firearms, explosives, dirks and nunchakus, among other items already on the ban list.
The bill drew support from police today at a Senate hearing, but others said the bill would not have its intended effect.
“If violence is the purpose, this won’t actually deter the violence,” said Orrin Johnson of the Washoe County Public Defender’s Office. “School rules are already adequate.”
Johnson further said that the law would criminalize students who accidentally bring a utility knife to school. The bill language says that anyone bringing these items to a school would be “punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not fewer than 15 days.”
Todd Rathner came from Arizona to testify on behalf of Knife Rights, a national organization “protecting the rights of law-abiding knife owners.”
He said schools already have the authority to suspend a student for wearing a t-shirt with a weapon on it so they should be able to confiscate a real weapon, contact a parent and discipline the student according to existing rules.
Rathner also said the definitions in the bill are weak.
“We are concerned about the ban of swords … the problem is that there is no definition of a sword. We don’t know where a pocketknife ends and a sword begins,” he said.
Supporters of the bill also conceded that adding a provision banning “any deadly weapon” would make enforcement difficult.
At various times during the hearing, those testifying mentioned baseball bats, crowbars and fingernail files as tools that could easily become weapons.
“A mace would be considered a deadly weapon,” said Frank Adams, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association. “That’s the stick with the chain with the big thing on the end of it … you could define almost anything with the way its used as a deadly weapon.”
Committee staff said that the bill could either be amended to include a specific definition of a deadly weapon, or the committee could leave it to the courts to decide what makes an item a deadly weapon.
Leslie said similar bills have been introduced during 2007 and 2001, but neither have passed.
Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, the chair of the Senate Judiciary committee that heard Leslie’s bill, did not hold a vote on the bill.
“We all want to look out for the well-being on children,” she said. “I just want to make sure that we capture what it is we need to capture here.”