Protection order bills advance to Nevada Senate

Two protection order bills designed to restrict gun rights in cases of domestic violence passed a Nevada committee last week, ensuring the proposals’ survival for the remainder of legislative session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bills 124 and 387 with amendments Friday, just in time for the state Legislature’s committee deadline — meaning any bill not voted out of committee in its originating chamber dies for the 2017 session.

Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, sponsored SB 387 as “one of the most important bills this session” and “a common sense public safety measure” of last resort.

“When we have folks who are in crisis and have access to weapons, we have terrible, terrible outcomes,” Ratti said while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the proposal earlier this month. “It gives law enforcement another arrow in their quiver. It’s a tool that will be used when all other tools have been exhausted.”

Specifically, Ratti’s legislation allows family or other household members to report high risk individuals to law enforcement, who can then seek a court order to remove the individual’s firearms temporarily. The bill defines a high-risk individual as someone who owns a firearm, poses a danger to themselves or others and has threatened violence within the preceding six months or behaved violently.

Courts can issue three different types of protective orders under the proposal: emergency, ex parte and extended — the latter of which could strip a person’s gun rights for up to a year.

“The bottom line for me is too many families are coping with too many tragedies and in a very narrow few cases where the current law enforcement and judicial system doesn’t provide tools, this bill could save a life,” Ratti said.

The amendments to Ratti’s bill penalize those who provide false information to secure a protection order with a misdemeanor charge while also providing a “pathway” to remove the court order from criminal records. The new language also prohibits the seizing of ammunition and extends the implementation date from Jan. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018, among other changes.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said Friday the amended bill still doesn’t provide “any better means to deal with someone who may be dangerous.”

“Why aren’t we just getting legal 2000s so there can be a mental evaluation? There’s no help for someone’s mental condition under this,” he said. “We are just simply taking their firearms away.”

Legal 2000 refers to Nevada state law concerning the mandatory hospitalization, or “legal hold” of dangerous persons exhibiting signs of mental illness, of up to 72 hours.

Committee members in support of the bill argued the legal 2000 process differs in purpose from the intent of SB 387, which Ratti said earlier this month is about “preventing victims” of domestic violence.

“So I’m concerned this is still a pre-crime bill,” Roberson said. “This still takes someone’s constitutional rights away with no evidence that they’ve committed any crime whatsoever.”

The panel also approved SB 124, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, which would require judges to issue a court order removing firearms from the subjects of extended protective orders. Under current law, judges can choose to act on such an order at their own discretion.

Spearman told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week the proposal is designed to protect domestic violence survivors from the “very real threat” of gun violence in their lives.

The National Rifle Association and other state-based gun rights groups oppose the bill’s mechanism for seizing firearms as well as its mandate on judges to issue court orders revoking gun ownership.

Committee Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, agreed — in part — with the NRA’s concerns, sponsoring an amendment Friday to “reinstate judicial discretion” in issuing the order, as well as remove the retroactive provision of the proposal that could strip gun rights from those convicted of stalking or domestic violence in the past.

“I think anytime we make something mandatory, I think that’s a problem,” he said.

The bills now move to the full Senate for consideration.