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Gun session misfires

This was supposed to be the session of the gun.

Plenty of gun-related bills were introduced in the 2015 Legislature, everything from where and how a person could carry a gun to how a gun could be used in self-defense to which people from other states could carry their guns here in Nevada. A basic search for the word “firearm” produces more than 4,200 hits in 224 documents on the Legislature’s website.

In the end, however, the session of the gun misfired: The most prominent bills that did pass contained as many restrictions on gun ownership and sales as they did expanded rights.

But hey, the bill to issue license plates showing your support of the Second Amendment passed!

Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore once again pushed for a bill to allow concealed permit holders — who must be at least 21 years old and have undergone a training course — to carry their weapons on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. (The bill was amended from its original version, which would have allowed carrying weapons at K-12 school campuses, day care centers and the nonsecure areas of airports, too.)

Fiore’s bill passed the Assembly, but ran into a brick wall of opposition in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Chairman Greg Brower, R-Reno, declared it did not have the votes in the Senate to pass. An infuriated Republican caucus sought to amend the language into an omnibus gun bill authored by Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, but that effort failed, too. A second bill with identical language to Fiore’s amended campus carry bill was passed in the Assembly, but died again in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The outcome was a surprising loss for Fiore, who has repeatedly introduced the bill in the Assembly on behalf of Amanda Collins, a University of Nevada, Reno student who was attacked in a campus parking garage in 2007, and who had left her concealed weapon at home because firearms are prohibited on campus. The bill has always run into opposition from the university system’s leaders and college presidents.

Even former Navy SEAL and U.S. Special Forces Command Adm. William McRaven, who recently retired from military service to take over as chancellor of the Texas higher education system, has said recently he opposes a law allowing concealed weapons on Texas campuses.

But that doesn’t mean no gun bills passed. Roberson’s Senate Bill 175 prohibits any person who has been convicted of domestic violence from buying or owning firearms, and it stipulates that anyone subject to an order of protection cannot buy or acquire a gun, either.

The bill also extends the so-called castle doctrine to motor vehicles, allowing people to defend themselves from attacks while they’re in their cars. It gets rid of Clark County’s “blue card” handgun registration program, and makes clear that local firearms laws are preempted by state statutes. And it expands the state’s reciprocity program regarding concealed weapons permits, allowing more visitors from other states to carry their weapons here, and allows Nevadans to carry their guns in other states, too.

And let’s not forget Senate Bill 240, another Roberson bill, which requires swifter reporting to the state’s background check database of people who have adjudicated mentally incompetent. This bill also prohibits people from selling guns to anyone they have reasonable cause to believe is not allowed to own weapons, including criminals, the mentally ill or gang members. It allows — but doesn’t require — voluntary background checks for private-party gun sales, and waives any fees to encourage people to do the checks.

It’s not perfect: There’s still no mandatory background checks for all private-party gun sales, for example. But overall, there’s some smart reform in these new laws. And given that they emerged from the session of the gun, it’s all the more surprising.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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