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Nevada lawmakers to consider barring firearms near election sites

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CARSON CITY — Lawmakers heard more than five hours of at times contentious testimony on a trio of bills related to firearms Thursday afternoon.

The marathon joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees opened with testimony from Sen. Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, who recounted her experience surviving the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting that left 60 people dead.

“Even now, almost six years later, there’s still a part of me that is missing,” Jauregui said. “I know I will never be as light-hearted, as jovial or as carefree as I once was.”

Joined by representatives with Everytown for Gun Safety and Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Jauregui presented Assembly Bill 354 and Assembly Bill 355 to lawmakers and a nearly full committee room in Carson City.

Assembly Bill 355 would prohibit a person under the age of 21 from possessing a semiautomatic shotgun or semiautomatic centerfire rifle and outlines penalties for a person over the age of 21 who aids or provides such a person with those firearms.

Under a provision of the bill, those penalties would be the same for an adult who negligently stores or leaves a firearm where a person under the age of 21 can access it.

“The age requirement to purchase a handgun in Nevada is already 21,” Jauregui said. “The same should be true for assault rifles so that these mass shooters can’t legally get their hands on these weapons and strike our communities again.”

The bill would not prevent those under the age of 21 from purchasing and using firearms meant for hunting, bill presenters said.

The bill drew support from several volunteers with Moms Demand Action and several groups including Battle Born Progress, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, and Nevada Coalition to Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“I saw my friend and fellow teacher Michael Landsberry die. He was shot in the chest by a 13-year-old student who brought his father’s unsecured gun into school. I don’t really know how I survived that day,” said Moms Demand Action volunteer Ben Tucker.

But several groups spoke in opposition to the bill, including representatives from the National Rifle Association, the Nevada Republican Party and the Libertarian Party, some of whom questioned the constitutionality of the proposed legislation.

“We’re here in strong opposition today to AB355,” said Daniel Reid, NRA Western Regional Director. “The bill is both unconstitutional on its face, under both the Nevada Constitution as well as the U.S. Constitution.”

Jauregui also introduced Assembly Bill 354, which would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm within 100 yards of an entrance to an election site. Exceptions under the proposed legislation include law enforcement officers while exercising their official duties and a private security guard hired by the owner of the property where the election site is located.

The bill also aims to clarify provisions of a bill passed during the 2021 legislative session. Assembly Bill 286 bans the sale and possession of firearms that lack serial numbers, and the current bill would revise the definition of “unfinished frame or receiver” referenced in the law.

Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Henderson, and other groups raised concerns about whether voting locations would become targets for those wishing to perpetrate violence because the locations would be gun free zones. Other groups raised concerns about those who may accidentally enter a polling place located in a public place, like a grocery store, while in possession of a firearm.

Jauregui said an amendment to the bill is currently in the works which would mandate signage for polling places to prevent individuals from accidentally walking into polling places with a firearm.

But representatives with the NRA and the Nevada Firearms Coalition, joined by the Nevada Republican Party, said the bill was too broad.

“We feel that it’s too broad. Polling locations do include drop boxes,” Reid said. “That 100-yard barrier where there doesn’t require the intent for you to be subjected to criminal charges is really problematic.”

But several groups spoke in support of the bill, including Silver State Voices, Battle Born Progress, Clark County and several volunteers with Moms Demand Action.

“This bill will help us ensure that all ideologies can participate or work in election sites safely keeping our elections and voters safe,” said Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus.

In a statement shared Wednesday afternoon, the Assembly Republican Caucus said all of its members will vote against AB 354 and AB 355. The statement raised concern over the short notice of the bills’ hearings and whether the bills would stop gun violence.

“A criminal intent on committing violent crimes will not be stopped by this law, but this law will stop, for example, a young woman who lives alone from procuring and responsibly owning a firearm for her own home defense,” the statement said of AB 355.

But the Nevada State Democratic Party slammed Republicans for declaring their opposition to the bills before they were heard.

“Just a week after another heartbreaking school shooting in our country, our Republican lawmakers owe it to kids and parents to finally take action on this issue, but they refuse to even consider it. They’ve proven that it doesn’t matter what the legislation says or does — Nevada Republicans will always put the gun lobby over childrens’ safety,” party spokesperson Mallory Payne said in a statement Thursday.

Lawmakers also heard Senate Bill 171. The bill, which was presented by Sen. Dallas Harris, would bar a person convicted of committing or attempting to commit a hate crime involving violence in the past 10 years from possessing, purchasing or owning a firearm.

“If you’ve been convicted of committing or attempting to commit a hate crime involving violence, do we want you to continue to be able to carry a gun? I submit the answer is, heck no,” Harris said.

The bill drew support from the Anti-Defamation League, Silver State Equality, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, Battle Born Nevada and other groups.

But the NRA, the Nevada Republican Party and the Libertarian Party opposed the bill.

“We’re opposed to this bill because of its overreach and subjectivity,” said Nevada Republican Party National Committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid. “Criminal behavior should be punished consistently regardless of what motivated the crime.”

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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