CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson pledged the Legislature’s continued efforts to improve gun safety in Nevada but demurred Thursday on an invitation from California state lawmakers to participate in a two-state summit to discuss “interstate cooperation on gun safety reform.”
The invitation, contained in a Wednesday letter to Frierson and other Nevada officials and signed by 27 California lawmakers, came in response to the July 28 shooting at an outdoor festival in Gilroy, Calif. by a California man who purchased the weapons he used in the attack from a Nevada gun dealer.
The shooter, Santino William Legan, bought an assault-style rifle from a dealer in Fallon after establishing state residency, which enabled him to obtain the weapon legally in Nevada. He illegally took it back with him to California. That state’s laws bar military-style assault weapons except under strictest circumstances and also would have prevented Legan, as a 19-year-old, from buying any weapon at all.
Gun purchases across state lines must comply with the laws of both states.
Legan died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after firing on a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three and injuring a dozen. He also was hit by gunfire from police officers. He obtained a Nevada driver license in June after establishing residency in Walker Lake, a tiny hamlet in Mineral County about an hour south of Fallon. The state Department of Motor Vehicles initially could not locate a record of issuing his license, but later confirmed he received it on June 17.
“While California has enacted numerous gun safety measures, this tragedy underscores the need for California to work closely with neighboring states to close loopholes and advance common sense gun safety measures,” California lawmakers wrote to Frierson. They acknowledged Nevada’s passage this year of gun safety bills to require private-sale background checks, ban bump stocks, enact “red-flag” laws and improve safe gun storage.
“However, we believe that more can be done to prevent gun violence and ensure the safety of both Nevada and California residents,” the lawmakers wrote.
One of the lead California signatories, Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat who represents the Encino neighborhood in Los Angeles, said the delegation’s letter was prompted by a “deep frustration about the lack of action at the federal level” on gun safety.
“Ideally this conversation wouldn’t be necessary,” Gabriel said. “We’ve seen in the past where there’s been state level collaboration, particularly on the west coast, when there’s been lack of federal action on things like climate change.”
The California Legislature adjourns for the year next month, he said, making the fall a good time for lawmakers in both states to meet. Nevada’s Legislature, meets for four months every other year, and does not convene again until early 2021.
“We are just looking to have a conversation on whatever terms are most interesting to folks in the Nevada Legislature,” he said. “We really have a great deal of respect for the work that they did (on gun safety) in the last session.”
Frierson, via a text message, cited passage and signing of the two gun safety bills, Senate Bill 143 and Assembly Bill 291, and said he remained “engaged with Nevadans on issued related to gun safety and recognize I am ultimately accountable to Nevada voters.” He suggested Nevada lawmakers would continue those efforts in their 2021 session.
“Sadly gun violence is an epidemic across the country and I believe the best way to ensure we are fully addressing this as a country is by addressing it holistically at the local, state and federal level,” he said. “While I will leave it to California leaders to participate in their summit, I do welcome collaboration on gun safety issues with colleagues from other states. When we reconvene as a Legislature in 2021, I am confident we will be equipped to do advance legislation that reflects the support of Nevadans.”