Two Nevada gun bills dead for 2017

Two gun control bills awaiting action in the Nevada Assembly died Friday as the Legislature’s second policy committee deadline came and went.

Senate Bills 115 and 387 stalled in the Assembly Judiciary Committee after two separate hearings on the proposals earlier this month produced a barrage of opposition and no appetite from lawmakers for a vote.

SB 115 — a joint effort co-sponsored by Clark County Democrats Sen. Moises Denis and Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod — would have authorized 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.”

The bill passed the Senate in March on a vote of 12-9, despite objections from Republicans who feared the proposal turned libraries into magnets for criminal activity. Other opponents criticized the bill’s language for failing to carve out an exception for parking lots.

Denis amended a fix for the parking lot issue into the bill for the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s May 11 hearing.

His proposal arrived 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 while protesting the branch’s policy prohibiting openly carried firearms.

An attorney for the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District argued the state’s preemption law, Senate Bill 175 only applies to cities, counties and towns — not libraries. The judge in that case agreed.

G.C. Gates, editor of the Nevada Carry blog, predicts the pending appeal in the case will rule against open carry library bans once and for all.

“We need to be patient and let the legal process finish itself out. Rome wasn’t built in a day,” he said in a blog published Friday. “To those who feel ‘something’ needs to be done, your support in opposition of the bill sent the message that Nevadan’s don’t want more gun free zones, especially with such an egregious background as SB 115 had. No other actions are needed right now.”

Likewise, a litany of legal concerns followed in the wake of SB 387, a proposal designed to strip gun rights from subjects of extended protection orders. Bill sponsor Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, described the proposal as a “last resort” for law enforcement and concerned family members when she proposed it.

Specifically, SB 387 would have allowed family or other household members to report high-risk individuals to law enforcement, who could then seek a court order to remove the individual’s firearms temporarily. The bill defined 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.

The measure would have allowed courts to issue three different types of protective orders: emergency, ex parte and extended — the latter of which could have stripped 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 would have penalized 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 would have prohibited the seizing of ammo and extended the implementation date from Jan. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018, among other changes.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said during an April 14 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing the amended bill didn’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 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 Nevada Senate passed the bill April 25 on a vote of 12-9. The Assembly Judiciary Committee vetted the proposal during its May 12 meeting, but took no action.

The Legislature adjourns its 2017 session next month — meaning Denis and Ratti will have to wait until 2019 to revive the bills.