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Lombardo vetoes gun control bills; ‘will not support’ infringing on Nevadans’ rights

Updated May 17, 2023 - 4:48 pm

CARSON CITY — In his first vetoes of the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Joe Lombardo rejected a trio of firearms-related bills on Wednesday.

“I will not support legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of Nevadans,” Lombardo said in a statement. “As I stated in my (veto) letters, much of the legislation I vetoed today is in direct conflict with legal precedent and established constitutional protections. Therefore, I cannot support them.”

The vetoed legislation includes Assembly Bill 355, which would prohibit a person younger than 21 from possessing or purchasing a semiautomatic shotgun or semiautomatic rifle, and Assembly 354, which would bar people from possessing a firearm within 100 feet of an entrance to an election site. Both bills were passed in the Senate Monday on party lines.

The governor also vetoed Senate Bill 171, legislation that 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.

News of the vetoes broke just minutes before Democrats held a midday news conference originally meant to urge the Republican governor to sign the three bills. Democrats and advocates in attendance, including Battle Born Progress, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action, instead used the event to express disappointment in the governor’s decision to veto the bills.

“It is disappointing for the governor to reject these commonsense measures that would save lives,” said Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who sponsored two of the bills. “After his time consoling the families of 1 October, I expected the governor to have the basic empathy to realize his responsibility to prevent future mass shootings.”

Others who spoke at the event, such as state Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, took a more defiant tone.

“If not these three gun safety measures, then what? What is the governor’s plan to keep Nevada safe?” said Harris, who sponsored the Senate bill. “If this is how he wants to run his office, if these are the first bills he wants to veto, then I say game on.”

Christiane Brown, a volunteer with gun control advocacy group Brady, said the governor’s vetoes were “shameful.”

“He didn’t make the moral choice. He didn’t make the right choice and today he made a shameful choice,” Brown said. “We are disgusted but we are determined to keep fighting because Nevadans need us.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if lawmakers will try to override the governor’s veto, which would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers. Democrats are one vote shy of two thirds in the state Senate.

In letters to leadership, Lombardo detailed his reasoning for vetoing the legislation. The governor raised concerns that the bill prohibiting semiautomatic firearms for those under the age of 21 would be unlikely to “pass constitutional muster” based on recent court decisions.

The governor said AB354 was duplicative of federal law, vague and would create an “impermissible burden on constitutionally protected conduct.”

In his veto letter about the legislation barring firearm possession by those convicted of hate crimes, Lombardo said the bill would go further than existing law to limit individual’s Second Amendment rights and would open the door to limiting firearm possession for those convicted of other misdemeanors.

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

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