Nevada Bump Stock ban and preemption bill shines light on deep cultural divide

by Brian Bahouth

Randall Brooks manages Carson Guns & Training in Carson City, NV. He holds a "modern sporting rifle" manufactured in Minden, NV - image - Brian Bahouth

Carson City – Nevada is known for many things, and since October 1, 2017, Nevada is home to the nation’s most deadly mass shooting in US history. Following the murder of 58 concert goers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, at the direction of President Trump, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms banned bump stocks in December of 2018. The ban took effect last Tuesday, and now, anyone in the nation in possession of a bump stock can be charged with a federal offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Nevada Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui and her husband were in the audience of the Jason Aldean concert when nearly 1,200 bullets rained down from an adjacent hotel room in ten minutes. The now infamous bump stock enabled the lone gunman to turn semi-automatic, high capacity magazine rifles into automatic weapons and kill 58 people and wound 851, and though the US Department of Justice has already banned bump stocks, AB291 would officially ban them in Nevada and would also take on a couple more contentious gun control issues.

Hear Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui present AB291 to a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate committees on Judiciary on Monday April 1, 2019.

At times through tears, Jaurequi described the events of October 1 and what that day has meant for her personal life with great emotional candor, but she was clear about the intent of the bill.

“I want to make sure that no person or family member ever has to live through and face a mass shooting again,” Jaurequi said.

Following the Las Vegas shooting, Jaurequi said she became introverted, but the subsequent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida prompted her to action.

“I was so infuriated and angry that children had to face something so awful that me, a grown adult, could barely deal with. I knew it was my responsibility, given my unique position as a legislator, to do everything I can to make Nevada a safer place,” Jaurequi said.

Nevada preemption law

In 1989,Nevada lawmakers passed a preemption law, AB147. The measure effectively prevented local governments from enacting gun control laws in cases where the state and federal government had already established relevant statutes, but the law went largely unenforced until 2015, when a pair of Republican sponsored bills updated gun control and preemption laws in Nevada with SB175 and SB 240. This pair of bills were passed during a nation-wide National Rifle Association effort regarding preemption rules, and now as many as 40 other states have enacted such laws.

AB291 would repeal Nevada’s preemption laws.

AB291 would allow municipalities across Nevada to establish their own set of gun control laws to suit local security needs.

Currently, anyone with a .01 blood alcohol content cannot legally possess a firearm, and AB291 would revise that limit to match the standard for DUI of .08 bac.

Chelsea Parsons is vice president of gun violence prevention policy at the Center for American Progress and helped Assemblywoman Jauregui present AB291 to a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate committees on Judiciary on Monday April 1.

Hear Chelsea Parson’s introductory comments.

“From 2008 to 2017, Nevada had the fourteenth highest rate of gun deaths in this country. A rate 39 percent higher than the national average. A person is killed with a gun in Nevada every 21 hours, and many of these deaths never make news,” Parsons said. “From 2008 to 2017, nearly 3,000 Nevadans died by suicide with a gun. From 2014 to 2018 there were thirteen other mass shootings in this state that left 13 dead and another 43 people injured.”

AB291 would modify Nevada’s preemption law; Parsons described the rationale.

“I don’t need to tell you Nevada is a large diverse dynamic state, and the public safety needs vary widely from county to county. For example data from the Uniform Crime report shows from 2014 to 2017, the robbery rate in Clark County was 153 percent higher than it was here in Carson City. During the same period, the rate of aggravated assaults in Storey County was 61 percent higher than in Clark County, so different localities around the state have different public safety challenges and need the ability to develop narrowly tailored approaches to address that, but current state law treats Clark County the exact same as Esmerelda County as if a county with 2.2 million residents and home to one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, has the same public safety needs as one with fewer than 1,000 residents that most tourists wouldn’t be able to find on a map.”

What would the bill do?

“What this bill would do is make it clear that local governments have the ability to enact ordinances related to firearms for the purpose of protecting public health and safety in the local community,” Parsons said. “This does not mean that counties can enact laws that conflict with state law or that contradict or undermine state law. But it means where state or federal law has not stepped in or where a county deems it necessary to go above what state law has determined, units of local government would be free to do so when necessary to protect health and public safety.”

Mike McLively is a senior staff attorney at Gifford’s Law Center and also helped present AB291. Hear Mr. McLively’s comments here.

Todd Sklamberg is CEO of Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas and offered comments in support of AB281. Sunrise is a 690 bed hospital with a level 2 trauma center, the most advanced acute care hospital in the state, according to Mr. Sklamberg. On the evening of October 1, 2017, Sklamberg said the hospital and emergency room were full before the shooting, and after repeated text notifications for a mass casualty, he went to the hospital and said he saw something he never thought he would see as he entered the trauma center.

Hear Todd Sklamberg’s comments.

“There was a patient on the left side, and she had a bullet hole right in the middle of her eyes, right through her head.”

242 patients were treated at Sunrise Hospital that night. One hundred twenty-four were gunshot victims, and of those 124, 15 were either deceased or unsalvageable Sklamberg said.

“We performed 58 surgeries immediately, 15 abdominal, 5 cranial and cervical, 17 orthopedic, 2 vascular, 5 thoracic, 9 multi-system, and that was followed by a wave of 7 more cranial surgeries, 15 abdominal surgeries, another 6 orthopedic surgeries and another 2, multi-system injuries.”

The effect of the tragedy on survivors was immense, a weight Sklamberg struggled to bear.

“One of the decedents was an off-duty police officer who several years prior was Sunrise Hospital’s community police officer. We knew him at the hospital,””Sklamberg said somberly. “When he passed and after we were able to identify him, the honor guard came in and stood over the body with a flag.

“We also gathered all of the family members that came in to Sunrise Hospital, over 350 family members, came into our auditorium, and it was probably the longest walk I took. It was from our emergency room to the auditorium, which is on the other side of the hospital, asking myself, when I go into the room, what do I say? What do I say to 350 family members who don’t know if their brothers, sisters, wife, husband, are alive.”

Opposition

Sparks Republican, Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen is on the Assembly Judiciary Committee and asked a question about her gun and the proposed law.

“As a female, with my firearm, sometimes a ten pound trigger is not comfortable. It’s too tight for me, so if I had my gun modified to a five pound trigger, would I be in violation of the law?”

“No,” Assemblywoman Jaurequi said in response. “That was never the intention of this bill. Your conversion to a lighter weight, a five pound trigger, wouldn’t convert your gun into an automatic type firearm, so you wouldn’t be in any violation of any legislation.”

Senator Ira Hansen is Republican from Sparks and asked about a county’s ability to make gun control laws less restrictive as part of the measure.

“I represent seven Nevada counties, all of which, I’d say most of which are in open rebellion against some of the gun control measures. Now you guys mentioned you want to get around the Dillon’s Rule concept and all the county to have greater flexibility in Clark County, but you don’t allow that to go the other direction in the counties that feel that increasingly restrictive gun control measures are in effect dramatically impacting on their 2nd Amendment rights. Are you willing to entertain and amendment to this bill that would allow the same Dillon’s Rule concept to be more flexible for the rural counties in the state of Nevada,” Hansen asked.

Chelsea Parsons of the Center for American Progress responded say counties could only implement more restrictive gun laws than state law, not less restrictive.

“State law will continue to set the floor when it comes to laws and regulations related to guns across the state, and then to the extent that a county determines based on input from its constituents that there needs to be more with respect to gun regulation, the county will be free to do that, but that is the intent of this bill,” Parsons said.

Dan Reid spoke on behalf of the National Rifle Association in strong opposition to AB291.

“This bill makes sweeping changes to Nevada law that could criminalize common firearm modifications turning otherwise law-abiding Nevadans into felons overnight.”

Mr. Reid focused on the firearm modification section of the bill that he says exceeds federal restrictions on bump stocks.

“This is well beyond federal regulations recently enacted. This is broad and sweeping and could encompass many common modifications including trigger adjustments, polishing of parts, springs,” Reid said.

Reid also took issue with a repeal of the state’s preemption laws, as did many who opposed the bill.

“It’s important to know the history of firearms preemption. It was originally passed in 1989 as a result of a locality looking to ban ammunition. Firearm preemption has been adjusted over the years, and this ensures uniformity throughout the state, so gun owners that are residents of Nevada or those that are visiting know what the law is as they travel through a jurisdiction,” Reid said.

Testimony in Support

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Annette Magnus executive director of Battle Born Progress

Las Vegas Democrat, Senator Yvanna Cancela representing Senate District 10.

Chris Giunchigliani

Justin Jones

Michael Collins

John Saludes, vice chair Nevada Gun Safety Coalition

Marlene Lockard, Nevada Women’s Lobby

Christiane Brown, Brady United to Prevent Gun Violence in Nevada

Heather Salen, survivor of the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas.

Elaine Sanchez

Andrew Woods, Save Lives Nevada

Paulina Polocious

Diana Loring

Chip Evans

Gina Moreno

Sara Dess

Lisa Hendricks

Briana Escamilla, Nevada state director of the Human Rights Campaign

Stephan Page organizing lead for the Human Rights Campaign

Reverend Leonard Jackson, executive director of the Faith Organizing Alliance

Vinny Spotleson, district director for Rep. Dina Titus

Testimony in Opposition

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Dan Reid, National Rifle Association

Michael Femi National Shooting Sports Foundation

Randi Thompson, Nevada Firearms Coalition

Hal Green

John Hermler

Nick Alfonsetti

Danielle Kholer

Jeff Polish

Lee Hoffman

Anthony Werjitski

Steve Johnston

Jay Jacobson, president Franklin Armory

Julie Deanda

Samuel Peters

Mack Miller

Cody Guyam

Clint McGarr

Maurice White

Janine Hansen, state president, Nevada Families for Freedom

Bill Nicholas

Greg Ross

Vernon Brooks

Joel Friedman

Jeffrey Watson

Kim Cantaccesi

Jim Degrafenreid, vice chair Nevada Republican Part, chair Douglas County Republican Party