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Legislature watering down gun control bill

CARSON CITY — A Democrat-sponsored omnibus gun control bill, this session’s main legislative response to the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 58 people, is getting reworked to eliminate provisions deemed too divisive and politically risky for some lawmakers.

In exchange for removing the bill’s controversial provision — ending the state’s ban on localities enacting their own gun laws, known as pre-emption — the bill would add so-called “red-flag” proscriptions, allowing authorities to seize weapons from people deemed a threat to commit violence. It would retain key language that bans bump stocks — add-ons to semiautomatic weapons that allow them to approximate the repeat-fire rate of a fully automatic gun.

Word of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers on the measure came Friday as legislative committees worked through remaining bills on their calendars ahead of an end-of-day deadline for committee passage.

The amended bill would remove language empowering local governments to enact their own gun control ordinances, currently barred under state pre-emption. Multiple parties to discussions on the bill, who spoke only on background Friday, said the prospect of ending pre-emption had prompted ardent gun control advocates to suggest potential gun control moves at the local level that moderates did not support — and that could jeopardize Democratic legislative seats in some districts.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, who sponsored Assembly Bill 291, confirmed the changes in a statement Friday, referring to Everytown for Gun Safety, one of three national gun control groups that have been active in crafting this year’s legislative reforms.

“At the request of Everytown and other organizations I have decided to remove the pre-emption language from AB291,” she said. “This is too important of an issue for me to risk moving forward without the support of a broad coalition.”

Jauregui said the bill would keep provisions banning bump stocks and lowering the legal blood-alcohol level allowed to handle a gun. She added that she is looking at “other fixes to improve gun safety in our communities,” including the red flag laws.

Zoe Sheppard, deputy press secretary at Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement that while the group supported the preemption portions of the bill, “it became clear there was no real path forward for this policy this year.”

“But there is a real chance to pass a strong Red Flag law in Nevada that can save lives right away,” Sheppard added. “We’ll continue to work to pass this bill and hope to pass preemption repeal in a future session.”

Additional measures may also be considered. The revised version of AB291 is expected to be unveiled early next week, with hearings on its changes later in the week. The bill passed the Assembly April 23 on a mostly party-line vote and is now pending before a Senate committee. It has a waiver exempting it from Friday’s deadline for committee passage.

The original bill proposed to ban bump stocks such as those used in the Oct 1, 2017, Route 91 Harvest festival concert shooting in Las Vegas, where 58 people died and more than 800 were injured by a gunman who was able to fire more than 1,100 rounds off in about 10 minutes. The revised bill retains language that lowers the permissible level of blood alcohol to handle a gun. Jauregui survived the 1 October and gave compellling testimony at the bill’s first hearing on her experience at the event and after.

The Legislature in February approved background checks for private gun sales in state fulfilling the intent of a 2016 voter initiative. Gov. Steve Sisolak promptly signed the bill.

In other action Friday:

After a three-hour delay, the Assembly Government Affairs committee passed bills related to the privacy of retired state employees and to support local government efforts to spur affordable housing development.

Senate Bill 224 riled open government advocates for proposing to make confidential the names of pension recipients in public records, labeling them only with an identification number along with other details of their benefit. The committee passed an amended version of the bill that restores recipient names but limits other information about their benefits to the annual payment amount only.

“It’s not the ideal area that I think anybody wanted to be in, but in the form of compromise, that’s where we ended up,” said Committee Chairman Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas.

The committee also passed Senate Bill 398 over opponents’ concerns that it might actually discourage housing development and lead local governments to impose rent controls in an effort to make housing affordable. Flores noted that the measure only codifies powers localities already legally possess.

“This is just beginning to open a door for us to start addressing that issue,” he said. “We’re not fixing the housing crisis with this.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter. Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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