CARSON CITY -- Democratic lawmakers thought to have aspirations beyond Carson City are fighting over how best to manage several gun bills facing the state Legislature.
On Monday, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, accused Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, of seeking "self-promotion and aggrandizement" by swooping up several of the gun bills in the Legislature and consolidating them under his own name.
In a letter, Lee accused Oceguera of trying to bolster his chances for a congressional campaign .
Lee said it was an attempt by Oceguera to improve his chances of retaining a high rating from the National Rifle Association, an influential pro-gun special interest group.
He wants Oceguera to be sure to include all the legislators whose names were on bills .
"I'm tired of that kind of leadership in this building," Lee said in discussing the motivation for the letter to Oceguera. The Legislature is not a "stepping stone," he added.
Lee, who is also considered a potential candidate for Congress, said his motivation was an attempt to ensure all the gun bills get a fair shot in the Legislature, not a concern about higher office.
"I live for today," Lee said. "This is about treating members of this body with respect."
Oceguera seemed caught off guard when asked to respond to Lee's letter.
"It is pretty out of left field," Oceguera said. "The best way to get bills passed in this building is to have consensus."
Oceguera, a lifelong NRA member, said he received the group's endorsement in his last election despite running against a gun store owner and is confident his record will show he is pro-gun.
Lee is also concerned Oceguera isn't pushing harder to ensure Senate Bill 231, which would remove restrictions Nevada colleges and universities use to prevent concealed weapon permit holders from taking their guns on campuses, survives the Assembly.
That bill, introduced by Lee, was the subject of emotional testimony from former University of Nevada, Reno student Amanda Collins, a concealed weapon permit holder who was prevented from carrying her gun onto campus the night she was raped at gunpoint. Her attacker, James Biela, went on two attack two more women and was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing Brianna Denison, a college student visiting Reno.
The NRA is advocating for the bill at the behest of Collins and indicated it will be harder for Oceguera to earn the coveted "A+" rating without the campus gun bill.
"Out of respect for Amanda that is our priority," NRA lobbyist Carrie Herbertson said.
Oceguera said he is supportive of the campus gun bill and will vote for it if it makes it to the floor of the Assembly. He said he didn't include it in the larger bill because it "doesn't have consensus so it would drag other stuff down."
Lee and the NRA have indicated they want Oceguera to ensure the bill gets to the Assembly floor. It already passed Lee's Senate Government Affairs Committee by a 4-1 vote.
"We would be asking him to use his leadership abilities should the bill get stalled at any point in time," Herbertson said of Oceguera.
The bills Lee criticized Oceguera for sweeping up include Assembly Bills 143, 185 and 205 and Senate Bill 126.
Most of those bills would streamline gun permitting and AB185 would allow for guns in state parks.
Legislators whose bills were swept up sought to stay out of the fray .
"What matters at the end of the day is the policy," said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, who sponsored AB143.
Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, the sponsor of AB205, took a similar tack.
Hickey said most bills, including AB205, "pale into comparison to the larger issues of this session," regarding the budget and taxes.
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3861.