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Democrats optimistic on gun control during Las Vegas roundtable

Updated September 16, 2019 - 6:50 pm

Three Democratic lawmakers from Nevada and Florida met with gun violence prevention activists Monday during a roundtable discussion in Las Vegas, rejecting any suggestion of political apathy in the wake of recent deadly shootings.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., whose district includes Parkland where a gunman shot and killed 17 people in 2018, is the lead sponsor of the Keep Americans Safe Act, which would ban ammunition magazines that contain more than 10 rounds for handguns and rifles. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., is a co-sponsor.

It passed the House Judiciary Committee and is headed to a vote on the House floor.

The two sat alongside each other for the roundtable inside Las Vegas City Hall Monday, where both assured activists from groups including Battle Born Progress, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Mom’s Demand Action and March For Our Lives Las Vegas, that their efforts to further gun control legislation were working.

“Who would have ever thought in a cowboy state like Nevada that you could pass even the background check?” said Titus. “If you can do it here, I’d say the country is ready for this.”

The Nevada Legislature this year passed Senate Bill 143, which requires a background check for all gun sales, including those between private parties.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, authored Assembly Bill 291, which bans bump stocks, requires safe storage of firearms and institutes “red flag” laws that allow firearms to be taken away from those deemed a danger to themselves or others. She said her bill was helped by many of the groups that attended Monday’s roundtable.

“Even just hearing what you’re doing is further confirmation that things are different now, that there is this movement all around the country,” Deutch said.

Placing blame for gridlock

But much of what has dominated headlines in recent years, particularly following a mass shooting, is the gridlock on gun control in Washington.

Keith Schipper, spokesman for the Nevada Republican Party, said the Democratic Party seeks to take firearms away from law-abiding Nevadans.

“Congresswoman Titus and the rest of the socialist wing of her party should be working to find common ground on this issue instead of advocating for gun confiscation,” he said in a statement.

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republicans are to blame for stonewalling sensible gun control measures, both Titus and Deutch said.

“As we go forward, we’re going to send more to Mitch McConnell’s desk and we’re going to increase the pressure on McConnell to make clear whose side he stands on,” Deutch said.

Titus noted how states seem to lead on policy when Congress falls behind — marijuana legalization and gay marriage were two examples she offered — but said it is also frustrating when all of Congress is painted as standing idle.

Ongoing efforts by Democrats and activists won’t solve gun violence, according to Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, who argued that “the topic is being used to basically disarm the American public long term.”

Instead of gun control measures, they should focus on not letting violent criminals out of jail early, dedicating time and funding into causes of mass shootings and separating ideologically driven shootings from those in which the assailant is mentally disturbed.

No effort is spent on exploring traits of mentally disturbed shooters, he added, including being social outcasts, coming from broken families or using mood-altering drugs. “If they want to save lives, they’re focusing on the wrong metric,” he said.

Assault rifle ban up next

Next week the House Judiciary Committee plans to host a hearing on an assault weapon ban, “something that’s safe to say would have been unimaginable just a short time ago,” said Deutch, who viewed it as another sign of momentum.

A ballot initiative to ban assault weapons may appear on the 2020 ballot in Florida, Deutch said.

Banning assault weapons was one issue that was central to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s campaign yet it did not materialize this year in the Nevada Legislature.

Prompted by Titus’ inquiry on whether a ballot question had been contemplated in Nevada, Battle Born Progress Executive Director Annette Magnus said while ballot questions were expensive, it was “not out of the question” for 2022 depending on what occurs during the 2021 Legislature.

Jauregui supported the idea but warned of a deep setback to the cause should it fail because of a lack of money to run a campaign.

As Democrats and Republicans continue to disagree, the campaign for gun control will press on, activists say.

Christiane Brown, the co-president of the Northern Nevada chapter of the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence, said activists “must show our anger about this” and call out the National Rifle Association — the preeminent gun lobby — as a “small, fringe group” to diminish its standing.

“It’s such a stark contrast,” Magnus said. “Four people can die from vaping and everybody’s in an uproar, but children are murdered with guns and there’s nothing done.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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