Legislative committee nixes discussion of assault weapons ban

CARSON CITY – A legislative commission decided Tuesday not even to discuss a possible ban on assault weapons.

A large crowd of people watching by teleconference from Carson City, Elko and Las Vegas applauded when the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice voted 8-5 against holding the discussion.

The vote came after Assemblyman William Horne, the committee chairman, blasted Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, for writing a newspaper column that implied Horne supported the gun ban and urged readers to contact him to complain. Horne, D-Las Vegas, called Ellison “extremely unprofessional” and said it wasn’t true he supported a ban.

Clark County District Judge David Barker, a member of the commission, led the move to block any discussion of assault weapons. He said his review of the laws creating the commission showed that members had no authority over assault weapons.

“It is not a criminal offense to carry an assault weapon,” Barker added.

But Horne said that the discussion would have been “strictly informational” and that he didn’t want the Legislature to start any discussions next year from “ground zero.” The commission had been scheduled to listen to a representative of the National Rifle Association, a lawyer from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Police Association.

Horne noted that the committee was meeting less than a mile from where Eduardo Sencion, armed with an assault weapon, killed four people and himself at the International House of Pancakes restaurant in September. Three of the dead were National Guard members.

The chairman added that Ellison should have called him on the telephone if he had concerns, rather than first writing the commentary in the newspaper.

“I meant no disrespect whatever,” Ellison said after the vote.

Ellison said he wrote a letter and an email to Horne about his objections to a ban on assault weapons and the possibility that the commission might recommend such a bill for discussion at the 2013 Legislature. But a work session at which the commission could have considered such recommendations was canceled late last week.

“I don’t believe in calling someone at home,” Ellison added.

In a Sunday commentary in the Elko Daily Free Press, Ellison said “many people use these weapons for recreational use for target shooting, hunting and self-protection.” Livestock owners use such weapons to keep predators from harming their cattle, Ellison said.

“In the last few months you have seen individuals that have created hideous crimes against the public, but if one licensed citizen was armed in that situation, maybe they could have saved some lives,” Ellison wrote.

Ellison also asked whether citizens only want police and criminals to have guns and noted the Second Amendment gives people the right to keep and use arms.

He asked readers to write or email Horne to express their concerns on an assault weapon ban.

While Horne was angry with Ellison, he noted that most of the people who contacted him were “professional” and thanked them for their comments.

Besides legislators, the 17-member committee includes judges such as Barker, Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, police, public defenders and a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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