By Riley Snyder
The Nevada Independent
Hundreds of impassioned supporters and opponents flooded the halls of the Nevada Legislature last week to testify on a contentious measure requiring background checks for most private gun sales and transfers — a stark reminder of the high emotions spurred by nearly all firearms-related legislation.
Although Gov. Steve Sisolak signed that measure into law on Friday, a slew of legislation and bill ideas affecting firearms in potentially significant ways are continuing to work their way through the legislative pipeline.
Several Democratic lawmakers are working on proposals to ban bump stocks — a firearm accessory that mimics automatic weapons fire, used in the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas — as well as creating penalties for leaving a firearm accessible to children and allowing municipalities to set their own regulations on guns. But it’s still unclear whether lawmakers will move to address Sisolak’s campaign promises to ban assault rifles and silencers.
Although they are in the minority in both houses, a handful of Republican lawmakers are also seeking changes to laws affecting concealed carry permits, storing guns on school campuses and taxing out-of-state gun sales.
Here’s a look at some bills affecting firearms that could come up throughout the rest of the legislative session.
One of the highest-profile changes to firearm policy will likely be the banning of bump stocks, but lawmakers are still working on introducing legislation.
Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui has submitted a bill draft request related to “gun safety,” and said in an interview on Tuesday that she’s finalizing language on a comprehensive measure that will include a ban on bump stocks and reversing pre-emption language giving the Legislature final authority over gun laws in the state. Jauregui, who attended and survived the Route 91 Harvest Festival mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip in 2017, said she was working with interested parties, including law enforcement agencies and the Nevada Resort Association, and had concluded the measure will not include an assault weapons ban and likely won’t contain limits on high-capacity magazines, saying limits on stockpiling weapons or ammunition may be more effective.
Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela has also submitted a bill draft request that would ban use of bump stocks in the state.
Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank has filed a bill draft request to undo a 2015 law change that give the Legislature control over regulation of, and policies on, firearms, firearms accessories and ammunition.
The 2015 bill, sponsored by former Republican Sen. Michael Roberson when the GOP controlled both houses, gave the Legislature power to regulate and oversee nearly all aspects of firearm policy, preventing local governments from crafting any ordinances or rule changes affecting firearms.
Although bill supporters at the time said that legislation was needed to ensure uniformity in the state’s gun laws, local officials, including then-Clark County Commission Chair Sisolak, have criticized the law and said it prevents local governments from taking action to ban “bump stock” devices or other restrictions on firearm accessories. Swank said a revision was needed given the very different environments across the state.
“Battle Mountain and Las Vegas are very different places,” she said.
Storing guns in cars near schools
Freshman Republican Assemblyman Gregory Hafen is sponsoring a bill that would allow concealed carry permit holders to legally store firearms at public schools, college campuses and child care facilities.
Introduced on Friday, AB167 would allow permit holders to bring firearms onto school campuses as long as the gun is out of “common observation,” inside a motor vehicle that is either locked or occupied, or stored in a locked container.
Hafen called the measure a “common sense gun law,” and said he had a brief conversation with Assembly Judiciary Committee chairman Steve Yeager about holding a hearing on the bill. A similar bill was proposed in 2015 by Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick, but it failed to make it out of committee.
Fellow Republican Assemblyman John Ellison introduced a similar bill on Monday, AB202, which would allow concealed weapon permit holders to possess a handgun on the property of a community college as long as the firearm is not in sight and is stored in a locked container affixed to a vehicle.
Republican Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer said he has submitted a similar bill draft request, but is considering using it instead as a vehicle to change provisions of the recently approved measure requiring background checks on nearly all private firearm sales and transfers. Every legislative Republican voted against the measure, which was signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday.
“We’ll see how much they want to work together,” Settelmeyer said.
Red Flag Laws
In a repeat from 2017 legislation, Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti has re-introduced a “red flag law” bill that allows law enforcement or the court system to temporarily seize the firearms of anyone deemed a serious threat of violence to themselves or others.
At least 13 states have enacted so-called “red flag” laws, with many moving to adopt the legal mechanism after the mass shooting in Parkland, Floridia. Ratti’s bill was staunchly opposed by the National Rifle Association and legislative Republicans in 2017, who compared it to the concept of “pre-crime” from the 2002 film Minority Report — the bill passed on party-lines out of the Senate and failed to make it out of the Assembly.
In an interview on Monday, Ratti said she was still working on the bill and didn’t expect a hearing on the legislation soon, but that her goals for the measure were the same as in 2017 — giving law enforcement a “tool that we need” to take precautionary steps for people who pose a threat to themselves or others.
AB217, introduced Monday by a group of Assembly Republicans led by Jill Tolles, would require county sheriffs who grant concealed carry permits to give priority to applications filed by people with a court order of protection against another person. Current law requires that an application for a concealed weapon permit be granted within 120 days.
At least two other states — Tennessee and Indiana — allow certain victims of domestic violence or those who possess a restraining order against another person to temporarily carry a concealed weapon without a permit, but Tolles said she would prefer anyone with a concealed carry permit first undergo the required training.
“I personally wasn’t comfortable with that,” she said. “I still felt it was important to go through all those steps, but I think just prioritizing somebody with a more urgent need is a reasonable accommodation.”
The bill also requires that courts which enter a verdict based on an individual’s mental health (such as involuntary admission to a mental health facility, a plea of guilty but mentally ill or acquittal by insanity) more quickly report findings to the state’s central repository for background checks on firearm sales. Current law sets a five-day limit, whereas AB217 lowers the time to “as soon as practical” and within no more than 3 days.
Tolles said she added those provisions to the bill after last week’s debate on the background checks bill, saying she wanted to ensure more timely reporting of mental health records to the state’s background check repository. States vary on how long courts are allowed to report mental health information, from up to 30 days in Utah and Texas to immediately in California and Arkansas.
“The background checks are only as good as the information that’s input in them,” she said.
Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro said she’s also submitted a bill draft request through the Senate Judiciary Committee that would allow law enforcement to waive charges against a person found to be carrying a concealed weapon without a permit if the person completes the required eight-hour training course and successfully applies for a legal permit. She said the bill would also create an escalating penalty for repeat offenses of felons found in illegal possession of a firearm.
Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jim Wheeler has also submitted a bill draft request related to laws on concealed firearms, but said it was a “placeholder” measure for possible future use.
Proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, AB153 would create a misdemeanor penalty for persons found to have “negligently” stored or left a firearm at a location under their control if they know there is a “substantial risk” a child can access it.
Fumo said the bill arose after a constituent’s daughter was shot and killed at a friend’s house where a loaded gun was kept within easy reach of children, but the Clark County district attorney opted not to file child abuse and neglect charges against the parents. Fumo said he worked on the bill with the district attorney’s office and included the misdemeanor penalty as a compromise, but didn’t want to include further penalties unless a child was injured or killed.
“When a child has brought a gun to school or someone’s been injured, there’s already been one tragedy,” he said.
Taxes on out-of-state gun sales
Proposed by Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus, AB113 would amend state law by prohibiting a federally licensed firearms dealer from charging sales tax when they facilitate an out-of-state gun sale between two individuals.
Federal law prohibits out-of-state gun purchases unless it is first delivered to a federally-licensed gun seller, who can finish the sale after running a background check on the purchaser. AB113 would amend definitions to prevent the dealer’s portion of the sale to be subjected to the state sales tax, instead requiring that the individuals pay the tax through a sales and use tax form.
Titus said the bill had taken on extra importance with last week’s passage of the background checks bill, saying she was concerned that every out-of-state gun sale processed through a firearms dealer would technically add to their total revenue, potentially requiring them to pay under the state’s Commerce Tax (assessed on business revenue above $4 million) without actually gaining any more revenue.
“I think the governor and the retail association, they’ve kind of perked up their ears on the bill because of passage, and the potential impact of the Commerce Tax on that,” she said.
Former Republican Assemblywoman Jill Dickman submitted a similar proposal in the 2015 Legislature, but the bill never made it off the Assembly floor.
Submitted on behalf of the state’s Department of Wildlife, SB55 clarifies a state law prohibiting transfer of loaded rifles or shotguns on any public road to include language specifically targeting muzzle-loading rifles or muskets.
The bill clarifies that muzzle-loading firearms — where the propellant charge is loading through the gun’s forward end, or muzzle — can be transported on public highways as long as the priming component to fire the weapon is removed prior to transport.
This article was reprinted with permission by the Nevada Independent. Visit them online at thenevadaindependent.com.