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COMMENTARY: Proposed provision in ‘ghost’ weapon bill would make it easier to racially profile

Nevada lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban home-built firearm kits. These are the so-called “ghost guns” that President Joe Biden said he would regulate as finished firearms sold at retail. There are serious concerns about this legislation. But what was almost — and still might be — attached to this legislation is equally as concerning.

A provision of the original bill would have made it a criminal trespassing offense if even licensed concealed carry permit holders took a firearm into a Strip property, including casinos and resorts. Violators could have faced four years in prison.

The language was yanked only when the American Civil Liberties Union raised concerns that this proposed law was ripe for abuse. Officials there said they expected the potential new law to be disproportionally applied to African Americans and Latinos. It was giving an excuse to racially profile otherwise law-abiding Americans who may have been unaware of a potential new law that stripped them of their Second Amendment rights and negated their concealed carry permit in this one special designated area.

That part of the legislation was struck in order to get the Assembly to pass it on party lines. It’s now in the state Senate, but the specter of the criminal trespassing provision is threatening to rise again. Proponents of the legislation already stated publicly they’re working to get the language added back into the bill.

This is a recipe for failure. It will inflame already contentious relationships between members of law enforcement, who are working to protect Las Vegas, and those in communities of color who are exercising their rights but might unwittingly violate a potential new law because of this gun control overreach.

Las Vegas casinos and resorts already have the option of not allowing firearms to be carried on their properties. If there are concerns about those not knowing or defying the rules, those businesses can intervene with security. If an individual fails to comply after that, then it can be a violation of the law and misdemeanor offense.

The overwhelming majority of concealed carry permit holders — of all races — are law-abiding. These are individuals who submitted to FBI criminal background checks to legally purchase a firearm. In order to obtain their valid permit, they had to submit to secondary background checks and, in some cases, mandatory training, submission of fingerprints and photos. These are individuals who have proven that they follow the rules.

Instituting a new law to short-circuit that moment of intervention by security and avoid a negative law enforcement interaction doesn’t improve public safety. It creates unneeded friction. Millions of tourists visit Las Vegas, and adding this law would only instill a fear some might be racially profiled simply because they lawfully exercised their rights without knowing that crossing the threshold into a resort put them in conflict with the law.

This proposed provision needs to stay in the stack of ideas that just don’t work. Attempts to bring it back only put the growing and record number of African Americans and Latinos who purchased firearms over the past year in an unreconcilable spot.

We should be exploring ways to include African Americans and Latinos into the community of law-abiding gun owners, empower them and give them voice. Ideas to make them vulnerable to unwanted police interactions sows distrust and suppresses people from fully realizing and exercising their rights.

Philip Smith is the founder and president of the National African American Gun Association. Lawrence G. Keane is the senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry trade association.

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