Assault Weapons Ban, Background Check Bills Introduced in U.S. Senate

by Suzanne Potter, Nevada News Service

An assault rile - (Ultra1S/iStockphoto)

Carson City – Democrats in the U.S. Senate are trying again to tighten up gun laws by bringing back the federal assault weapons ban and expanding federal background checks to include private and unlicensed sales.

The issue has particular resonance in Nevada, where a gunman used AR-15s to kill 58 people and injure 422 more at a concert in Las Vegas in October 2017, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

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Maria-Teresa Liebermann, deputy director of the advocacy group Battle Born Progress, says she appreciates the renewed focus on gun violence prevention.

“There really is a gun violence epidemic in this country that has not been addressed, so the fact that it is a priority in the first week is welcome and has been needed for years,” she states.

The new assault weapons ban would allow owners to keep existing weapons and contains exemptions for 2,200 specific guns used for hunting, recreation and household defense.

It also requires existing weapons to be stored in a safe or with a trigger lock.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, who has the power to bring the bill up for a vote, has opposed similar bills in the past.

In 2016, Nevadans narrowly passed a ballot measure requiring use of the federal background check system rather than the state system, but former Attorney General Adam Laxalt said it was unenforceable and a district court judge agreed.

Liebermann notes that the new attorney general, Aaron Ford, a Democrat, has said he’ll try to implement that policy nonetheless.

“I think, at the end of the day, it was pure politics, especially from Laxalt’s side, and now here in Nevada with a new governor and attorney general, it’s going to be a lot different,” Liebermann states.

In the upcoming session of the Nevada Legislature, lawmakers are expected to consider bills to require safe storage of weapons and restrict gun possession by people convicted of domestic violence.

There also are discussions about repealing parts of SB 175, an existing law that expanded the “castle doctrine” to expand the “stand your ground” defense to situations where people may feel unsafe while in their car.