Nevada Governor Vetoes Gun Control Bills Amid Clash With Democrat-Majority Legislature

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo issued his first set of vetoes since taking office and rejected a trio of firearms-related bills on May 17.

“I will not support legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of Nevadans,” Lombardo said in a statement. “As I stated in my letters, much of the legislation I vetoed today directly conflicts with legal precedent and established constitutional protections. Therefore, I cannot support them.”

On his campaign website, Lombardo says he “supports the right of all law-abiding citizens to own a firearm if they so choose.” The website also expresses his support for the “right to build a firearm for personal use,” and vowed to veto any legislation that would take away that right.

Democrat leaders—who hold a veto-proof supermajority in the state Assembly and are one vote away from that in the Senate—said they would continue to press for gun-control legislation “with or without (Lombardo’s) cooperation.”

Vetoed Legislation

AB354 would have prohibited people in most cases from possessing a firearm within 100 yards of the entrance to a location that they know or reasonably should know is a polling place. It also would add language to strengthen restrictions on “ghost guns,” which are untraceable.

AB355 would have banned people under 21 years old from possessing any semiautomatic shotgun or center-fire rifle and referenced California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic rifles to adults under the age of 21.

“AB 355 is presumably intended to decrease gun violence in communities across the state—an admirable goal,” Lombardo wrote in his veto letter to Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (pdf). “However, last year, in Jones v. Bonta, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic rifles to adults younger than 21. In a 2-1 panel decision, the court found that the Second Amendment ‘protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms, which includes the right to purchase them.’”

SB171 was set to prohibit a person from purchasing, owning, or possessing a firearm if they have been convicted of a hate crime or attempted to commit a hate crime involving violence in the past 10 years.

“When it comes to these types of misdemeanor crimes, SB 171 would go much further than existing law by depriving individuals of their Second Amendment right to bear arms,” Lombardo wrote in his letter to state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (pdf). “Moreover, the limited nexus between certain misdemeanor offenses and gun violence makes it untenable to pass a law that immediately puts the defendant’s Second Amendment rights in jeopardy. This would effectively open the door to more laws restricting others convicted of gross misdemeanors from owning firearms to protect their homes and families.”

Democrats Respond

Democrat Assembly Majority Leader Sandra Jauregui said the bills would better protect the state from gun violence and accused the governor of prioritizing “partisan politics” over residents’ safety.

Richard Thomson, vice president of programs for the Firearms Policy Coalition, praised the governor for protecting Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

“FPC and our members applaud Governor Lombardo for his siding with history and individual rights,” Thomson said in a statement. “We are pleased that not only did the Governor veto these unconstitutional and immoral measures, but that the years of effort of our members, supporters, and litigation team contributed to the decision. The tide continues to turn toward individual liberty and respect for fundamental rights.”

Democrat leaders said on May 16 they would consolidate Lombardo’s school safety bill, inviting him to pitch the measure as an amendment to a similar bill that they’re pushing. Lombardo’s school-choice proposals, with various mechanisms for providing public funding to help students access private schools, have also received an icy reception from Democrats.

Lombardo’s office threatened to ax the state budget if his priorities aren’t addressed.

If a budget is not approved by July 1, state services, including schools and state agencies, may shut down.

“If he follows through and stakes out an extremist position, he will have to explain to Nevadans why their kids’ schools are not opening on time, public safety services are reduced, and other essential state services are shut down,” Cannizzaro said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report 

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