CARSON CITY — Just as the Sandy Hook school shooting prompted efforts to regulate gun policies in Nevada in 2013, the mass shooting in Las Vegas on Oct. 1 will likely result in a new push when the Legislature convenes in 2019.
As one lawmaker described it, the gun lobby will be on steroids in the 2019 session.
But even in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, it remains to be seen whether the Oct. 1 attack that killed 58 people and wounded 489 more prompts changes in Nevada law.
“It is time to unite so we can get through these terrible times,” said state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden. “We need to roll up our sleeves, give blood and get to work.”
Ari Freilich, an attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said there is a need for laws that go well beyond background checks, which the shooter cleared to legally purchase dozens of weapons in several states.
“There are many policy solutions that can make a meaningful difference for many people and can make a difference between life and death,” he said.
If history is an indication, Nevada’s laws are unlikely to change. Numerous efforts have come forward in the Nevada Legislature in recent years to regulate firearms by expanding background checks on private gun sales or limiting the capacity of gun magazines, but none have survived the full legislative process.
Nevada’s gun laws are in line with those of most of the country, although California, its neighbor to the west, has the strictest gun laws in the nation.
Eight states require background checks on private gun sales, ban assault weapons and limit magazine capacity. Nevada has none of those requirements and is among the 42 states that do not have at least two of those laws, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Nevada also is one of 39 states that do not not require a permit or license to buy or own a gun.
State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who proposed legislation in 2013 to limit magazine capacity and ban assault weapons, said something has to be done.
“We need to make sure people feel safe when they come to Nevada,” Segerblom said.
California, Washington and Oregon have laws that allow people to petition a court to temporarily seize a family member’s firearms. A similar bill failed in the Nevada Legislature this year, but gun control advocates want to see it revived in 2019.
And bump stocks, thrust into the limelight because Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock used them to essentially create a cache of fully automatic weapons, are legal in every state but California.
The National Rifle Association has called for a review of bump stocks to determine whether it will support changing laws, and several state lawmakers said they will propose a law to ban the devices in Nevada.
Chip Evans, chairman of the Nevada Gun Safety Coalition, said a combination of factors is needed to limit gun violence.
“Our solution is going to reside in a combination of some understanding of the human component and the machine component,” Evans said.
A bill to require background checks on private and gun show sales was proposed in Nevada in 2013 following the Sandy Hook massacre, and lobbyists on both sides of the Second Amendment issue ramped up their efforts here.
Parents of Sandy Hook victims, an anti-gun violence group headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, all came to Carson City to push for the bill’s passage.
The NRA led the lobbying effort against the bill, meeting with legislators before the 2013 session began in an effort to reduce support for greater gun control.
An expanded background check bill passed the Legislature that year but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. A similar measure was put on the ballot in 2016 and narrowly approved by voters, but it has been deemed unenforceable.
The NRA had five lobbyists in Nevada for the 2017 session. Another Second Amendment group, the Firearms Policy Coalition, had three lobbyists. A group seeking changes to Nevada gun laws, the Nevada Gun Safety Coalition, also had five registered lobbyists in 2017.
Expect more pressure from both sides of the gun issue ahead of and throughout the 2019 session.
Mass shootings always spark gun control debate — and sometimes result in stricter laws.
California voters last year passed a ballot measure to limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds, a law that came after the state grieved mass shootings in successive years. The Colorado Legislature, in the wake of the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, capped magazine limits at 15 rounds and extended its background check laws.
“Some of these people have an agenda, and it’s thought-out and it’s incremental,” said Don Turner of the Nevada Firearms Coalition. “Each time they do that, they make it more difficult to own a gun. The end result is gun confiscation. That’s the slope they’re working on.”
In many cases, the clamor for change diminishes as time passes.
“Too many people are suffering,” said Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas. “If there is a discussion, let it cool down and talk about it after the first of the year.”
Meanwhile, the friends and family of 58 victims will grieve.
“It’s too bad that mankind hasn’t evolved further,” Turner said. “We still have people that want to do harm to other people.”