When I was in my early 20s, I was still getting my life together. I had only recently gathered the courage and the resources to leave an extremely abusive relationship. I didn’t know when I drove home from work one day that I would be badly beaten in broad daylight right outside of my apartment. I didn’t know that despite having a temporary protective order in place, I would become one of the three in 10 women who are beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I didn’t know how lucky I was that a gun wasn’t around.
Violence against women is undoubtedly an urgent problem in Nevada. According to a recent report by ProgressNow Nevada and the Center for American Progress, Nevada ranks eighth-worst among states for the rate at which women are murdered with guns, with a rate that is 38 percent higher than the national average. Men don’t face nearly the same risk — in fact, the gun murder rate for men in Nevada is below the national average.
What drives this fatal violence against women? Much of it is due to access to guns by domestic abusers: 40 percent of women murdered in Nevada were killed by an intimate partner, and half of those murders were committed with a gun.
In light of these bleak statistics and the fact that Nevada has weak laws in place to prevent fatal gun violence against women, any serious attempts to address this issue and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous abusers should be applauded. However, Senate Bill 175, introduced last week by Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is no such attempt and is, in fact, a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Senate Bill 175 gets one thing right — it prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from possessing guns. While this provision would bring Nevada in line with federal law, it does not go nearly far enough to prevent dangerous abusers and stalkers from having access to guns.
In addition, three other parts of SB 175 would have a dramatic impact on public safety in Nevada and would make our communities more vulnerable to gun violence.
First, the bill would allow dangerous people, including domestic abusers and stalkers, to freely carry concealed, loaded guns throughout our communities under the authority of concealed weapons permits issued by other states. These people would be legally allowed to carry despite the fact that they would be ineligible for a concealed weapons permit in Nevada. That effectively drags Nevada’s reasonable concealed weapons permitting law down to that of states that allow someone like George Zimmerman to continue carrying guns despite his ongoing history of domestic violence (not to mention his killing of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012).
Second, this bill expands the circumstances in which people are permitted to shoot to kill under Nevada’s already broad and controversial stand your ground law.
Third, the bill takes away Clark County’s ability to pass stronger laws to protect women from gun-wielding domestic abusers.
So, while this bill gives a small nod to protecting victims of domestic violence, the sum total effect of Sen. Roberson’s approach is to increase the number of dangerous people carrying guns in Nevada and expand the circumstances under which they are legally allowed to shoot, effectively issuing a license to kill to abusers and other dangerous people.
If we are going to get serious about reducing the number of women murdered with guns in our state, there is much that can be done to immediately strengthen Nevada’s laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. Last week, Sen. Pat Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 187 on behalf of Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, to prohibit domestic abusers and stalkers from buying and possessing guns and ensure that they are required to surrender their guns once they become prohibited. The Legislature should pass this bill without delay and put it on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s desk.
Make no mistake, Roberson’s bill will not protect women.
As a survivor of domestic violence, I know what it’s like to be terrorized in your own home and how much courage it takes to leave your abuser. Will our elected leaders also demonstrate that same courage on behalf of Nevada women by defeating the gun lobby-sponsored SB175, and instead pass SB187?
Attorney Lucy Flores is a former Nevada assemblywoman.