A panel of Nevada lawmakers could vote on a bill banning guns in libraries Thursday.
A legislative agenda shows the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled Senate Bill 115 for a work session, just two weeks after a heated vetting that left some Republicans questioning the necessity of the proposal.
“I’m not quite sure this bill is needed,” Sen. Donald Gustavson, R-Sparks, said during a Feb. 28 hearing. “As far as I know there’s no evidence to suggest open carry or concealed carry pose any danger. I’d just hate to create another gun free zone.”
The proposal, a joint effort co-sponsored by Clark County Democrats Sen. Moises Denis and Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, would authorize libraries to preempt state law and ban weapons outright — an exemption so far only given to schools, colleges and daycares.
Denis and Bilbray-Axelrod served as library trustees before becoming state lawmakers and both agreed libraries function as “extensions of the education establishment.”
“I brought it because I felt they were left off the original bill two years ago,” Denis said. “This gives the library the opportunity to do whatever they want. They’ve been gun free for 100 years so to say now that it will change anything, I don’t see it.”
The “original bill” Denis referred to, SB 175, delineates the power of regulating firearms solely to the state Legislature.
A high-profile lawsuit involving the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District settled last year raised questions about whether the preemption law applies to libraries.
The litigation stemmed from the library’s treatment of a woman who openly carried while visiting a public library with her three children in March 2016.
According to court documents filed in April, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police cited Michelle Flores for trespassing at the Rainbow Library after she refused to leave in protest of the building’s ban on weapons like the .38-caliber revolver she wore in a visible holster that day. The library also revoked her privileges for one year, prompting Flores to file suit in district court accusing the library of limiting her constitutional rights to free speech and bear arms.
The library district’s attorney, Dennis Kenney, said the ban wasn’t about Flores’s gun, but rather her “disruptive behavior.”
The district also maintained the Legislature’s preemption law only applies to counties, cities and towns. Libraries, rather, fall into a category of “political subdivisions” that include schools and judicial districts, all of which are distinctly different from the former, the district argued.
Kenney appeared before the committee last month to reiterate Judge Stefany Miley agreed with the district’s interpretation of the law.
Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said despite the lawsuit’s conclusion, he doesn’t believe libraries have the right to ban openly carried firearms.
“I don’t think you’re following the law today,” he said, citing a Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion deeming bans on openly-carried firearms illegal. “I think you are violating the law today. So I understand why you need to bring this bill. You’re violating the law.”