Gun-rights heroes and heels
As happens far too frequently in the Nevada Legislature, opponents of pro-gun citizens used legislative maneuvers this session to keep pro-gun bills from getting Assembly and Senate floor votes.
Nevertheless, lawmakers passed several good bills, due to hard work by the lobbyists from the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action, the folks from Stillwater Firearms Association, Gun Owners of America and the calls, letters and e-mails from grassroots gun owners.
Bills didn't die by virtue of votes on the floor. Instead, they died in committees, and one committee in particular: the Assembly Judiciary Committee, chaired by William Horne (see below). The Nevada Sheriff's and Chief's Association (NSCA) also opposed many of these bills.
Nevada does not have a strong statewide gun-rights organization. The Nevada State Rifle & Pistol Association, for example, is not a political force and is always absent at the Legislature. If Nevada gun owners are going to have a positive impact in Carson City during the next legislative session, it is imperative that a strong state firearms association be ready by then.
LEGISLATION THAT PASSED
A good example of insider legislative machinations was AB282. A pro-gun bill from Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, it combined — or plagiarized, as Sen. John Lee pointed out in a critical letter he sent to Oceguera — several bills other legislators had introduced earlier. The bill provides for confidentiality of the names and addresses of those who have a Concealed-Carry Weapons (CCW) permit and allows "any revolver and any semi-auto" to be on the permit (current law requires separate qualification — read extra fees — for each semi-auto).
Before the bill passed the Assembly, Oceguera added an amendment that would have allowed the state's different sheriff departments to charge open-ended fees and require additional finger-printings for permit renewals. Reportedly, the NSCA pushed for the amendment.
In the Senate, Sen. Elizabeth Halseth brought forward an amendment to maintain the current $25 fee cap, and although that amendment passed the Senate, the Assembly, under the pressure from Oceguera, initially did not concur.
Nevertheless, thanks to the NRA-ILA and grassroots input, the final version of the bill maintained the $25 cap on the amount that sheriffs could charge. Existing administrative fees will remain unchanged. An additional fingerprint check remained. As passed, this law also allows for CCW permit holders to have instant background checks when purchasing firearms and to carry concealed in state parks. The bill is awaiting the governor's signature.
Heroes from the session were Sen. Halseth, NRA-ILA, Stillwater Firearms Association, Gun Owners of America, and Nevada gun owners.
Other legislation that passed includes:
SB302: Prohibits sale of gunpowder to under-age persons. It was amended to make it somewhat palatable. Signed by the governor, it takes effect Oct. 1, 2011.
AB321: An act relating to the use of force, revisions to the provisions governing justifiable homicide. The governor signed this bill, which is good for gun owners, and it takes effect Oct. 1, 2011.
SB126: An act that allows people with CCW permits to qualify with "any semi-auto." Signed by the governor, it takes effect Oct. 1, 2011 (See AB282 above).
AB143: Same as SB126, plus it makes information provided by CCW permittees confidential. Signed by the governor, it takes effect Oct. 1, 2011.
AB217: Allows for the sale of long arms to non-contiguous states. Signed by the governor, it takes effect July 1, 2011.
LEGISLATION THAT DIED
SB231: Introduced by Sen. Lee, it would have allowed permitted CCW holders to carry on university and college campuses. It would have provided protection to college students whose current gun rights are prohibited by the various college administrations. It passed the Senate, 15 yea, six nay.
On June 1, the Assembly Judiciary Committee heard SB231. Committee member Ira Hansen requested a vote, but Chairman Horne absolutely refused to conduct a vote. There were enough votes to pass this bill on the Assembly floor, but it never was given a chance for floor vote.
University administrations and the NSCA were opposed to the bill. Of interest is that Mr. Horne is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
SB175: CCW permit confidentiality. Some of the provisions were incorporated into AB282. Passed the Senate. When Assembly Judiciary Chairman Horne did not schedule a hearing, the bill died in committee.
SB279: NICS Exemption for CCW holders — some of the provisions were incorporated into AB282. Passed the Senate. Assembly Judiciary Chairman Horne did not schedule a hearing, and the bill died in committee.
SB179: Special license plate supporting Second Amendment Rights. Transportation Committee Chairwoman Sen. Shirley Breeden took no action, and the bill died in committee.
AB8 and AB381: Castle Doctrine. These were important bills for gun owners, as either would have provided legal protection to those who have to use deadly force to protect themselves within their homes. It was never heard by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, under Chairman Horne. Assemblyman John Hambrick introduced AB8 and Assemblyman Tick Segerblom introduced AB381.
AB205: Would have made necessary changes to Nevada law to satisfy Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives requirements for National Instant Criminal Background Check System background checks. Assembly Judiciary Chairman Horne did not schedule a hearing, and the bill died in committee, although AB282 allows this incorporation.
AB185: Removed Nevada Administrative Code prohibiting firearms in state parks and would have prohibited the adoption of any new regulations more restrictive than state law. Assembly Judiciary Chairman Horne did not schedule a hearing, and the bill died in committee, although AB282 allows firearms in state parks.
SB176: Would have made Nevada a constitutional-carry state similar to Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming. It also would have repealed Clark County's handgun-registration requirements. It was opposed by NSCA and died in Senate Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Valerie Wiener, without a hearing.
AB231: Would have made Nevada a constitutional-carry state similar to Vermont, Alaska, Arizona and Wyoming. It died in Horne's Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Thanks to NRA-ILA, Stillwater Firearms Association and "Muth's Truths" for input on this report.
Don Turner is a contributing writer to the Nevada Policy Research Institute and a past member of the National Rifle Association board of directors and the National Shooting Sports Foundation board of governors, and a member of the National Association of Shooting Ranges Executive Committee and the National Shooting Ranges Roundtable. For more visit http://npri.org.