Nevada’s proposed open carry library ban gets parking lot exemption

Nevada lawmakers mulled over an amendment last week exempting parking lots from a proposal allowing libraries to ban firearms outright.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee considered the new language for Senate Bill 115 during a meeting Tuesday where gun rights advocates pressed lawmakers to reconsider the proposal entirely, citing an infringement on the Second Amendment and the state’s preemption law.

Specifically, the bill gives the state’s 86 public libraries the authority to create weapons policies banning both concealed and openly carried firearms — the latter of which isn’t criminalized under state law. Currently, only schools, colleges and day cares can enact gun regulations stricter than existing statute, per Senate Bill 175 of 2015.

Las Vegas Democratic Sen. Mo Denis, who sponsored SB 115 in February with Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, D-Las Vegas, said libraries are “extensions of the education establishment” and shouldn’t receive different treatment when it comes to weapons policies.

“I brought it because I felt they were left off the original bill two years ago,” Denis said in March. “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.”

G.C. Gates, editor of the NevadaCarry blog, said last week the bill’s proposed parking lot exemption — which isn’t mandatory — turns SB 115 into “campus carry lite” because Denis “made a huge mistake tying libraries to schools.”

“Denis’ intended ‘checkmate’ to overcome these objections back into basically the same problem he faced before,” he said in a blog published Wednesday. “Libraries could easily ban such conduct if they wanted, and libraries making up the rules as they go is the whole problem here.”

Gates continued,  “As this bill stands, many pro-gun and rural schools, libraries, etc. could very easily make very liberal parking lot carry policies allowing even open carry. If this passes as-is, it will lead to more and more schools and etc. adopting pro-gun policies, slowly bringing down the wall of resistance to true campus carry … It’s a no-win situation for Democrats.”

Denis’s proposal comes one year after a high-profile lawsuit involving a woman who openly-carried a .38-caliber revolver while visiting a library in Las Vegas with her three children. The woman, Michelle Flores, lost her library privileges after she refused to leave in protest of the branch’s policy prohibiting openly carried firearms.

An attorney for the library district argued SB 175 only applies to cities, counties and towns — not libraries. The judge in that case agreed.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, who sponsored SB 175 two years ago, said in March “it was no accident” libraries weren’t included on the list of exempted institutions.

“How is it helping our law-abiding citizens when a mother with three children — and this was a case that happened a year or so ago — cannot openly carry a handgun while walking into a library to make sure she and her children are safe?” he said. “Criminals do not follow gun laws. They are not going to follow this bill if we pass it today. We are limiting the State and Federal Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens in this State. We should not do this.”

Other Senate Republicans criticized the bill’s language for failing to carve out an exception for parking lots, thus criminalizing firearm owners who “simply drive into the area with a gun in their vehicle to drop off a child.”

Despite the objections, the Nevada Senate passed SB 115 on a vote of 12-9 in March. The Assembly Judiciary Committee did not take action on the bill Tuesday.