Why was a Nevada Commission Too Afraid to Even Discuss Assault Weapons?

image from aroundcarson.com

A year ago today, four people were killed and seven more injured by a man with an assault weapon at an IHOP in Carson City, Nevada. Immediately, survivors and members of law enforcement issued calls for change. “I can’t imagine why we are even selling assault weapons to civilians,” said shooting survivor and National Guard Sergeant Caitlin Kelly. “There’s no reason for an AK-47 or an M-16 or an M-4 to be in a civilian’s home.” The sheriff of nearby Washoe County concurred, urging the public to “stand up and demand change.”

Heeding the call for action, an advisory commission tasked with reviewing the state’s criminal justice system scheduled a hearing to gather information about assault weapons. The commission invited one of our attorneys to participate, alongside representatives from the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association and the National Rifle Association. We accepted the invitation, pleased to have the opportunity to provide our expertise. That discussion was scheduled for last Tuesday. Unfortunately, it never happened.

In the weeks leading up to the scheduled hearing date, pro-gun supporters inundated the commission with e-mails, phone calls and letters. The NRA sent an alert to its members encouraging them to attend the hearing and voice their opposition to regulating assault weapons. The group, which didn’t want to talk about the devastation the Carson City victims and their families suffered in the aftermath of that tragedy, was now more than willing to talk about their real priority – keeping dangerous military-style firearms legal. After all, according to the Nevada State Rifle and Pistol Association, assault weapons are just plain “fun to shoot.”

At the hearing, with a crowd of pro-gun supporters watching, Judge David Barker, a commission member, questioned the authority of the commission to discuss assault weapons. Despite assurance from the commission’s legal counsel that the subject fit well within the body’s purview, the commission then voted, eight to five, to remove the issue from its agenda. It was a shocking, last-minute decision, and the commission’s counsel told us he had never seen anything like it.

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Success Story: Nevada’s Highest Court Upholds State Law Prohibiting Felons from Possessing Firearms

In an appeal before the Nevada Supreme Court, a convicted felon argued that the Nevada law prohibiting felons from possessing firearms violated the Second Amendment in Pohlabel v. Nevada.

The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the state law.  It explained that convicted felons do not have Second Amendment rights, and therefore, that laws prohibiting felons from possessing firearms do not violate the Second Amendment.  This decision is particularly significant for its strong language confirming that felons are entirely excluded from the Second Amendment’s protection.

Trayvon Martin Tragedy Reverberates in Nevada

Trayvon Martin Tragedy Reverberates in Nevada
Paul Takahashi, Las Vegas Sun, April 11, 2012

In the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin shooting tragedy in Florida, many states rethink their own “shoot first” laws, and communities struggle with the racial and public safety implications of such laws and their consequences.  This article chronicles a forum held at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas that attempts to make sense of the shooting – and the state’s “shoot first” law.

Trayvon Martin Case Has Some Looking at Nevada’s Self-defense Law

Trayvon Martin Case Has Some Looking at Nevada’s New Self-defense Law
Karoun Demirjian, Las Vegas Sun, April 1, 2012

This article looks at Nevada’s recently-adopted “shoot first” self-defense law, in light of the recent Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida.  Florida has one of the broadest – and most dangerous – “shoot first” law in the nation, and the Nevada statute is similar in scope.