Lombardo vetoes three Democrat-backed gun control bills

Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis

Ahead of a press conference from advocates aimed at pressuring Gov. Joe Lombardo to sign a trio of Democrat-proposed gun control measures, the Republican governor vetoed the three bills.

Lombardo’s action marks the first veto of the session and arrives after he pledged on his campaign website to “veto any legislation” that would take away the “right to build a firearm for personal use.” At that time, Lombardo also said he “supports the right of all law-abiding citizens to own a firearm if they so choose.” Republican lawmakers — who voted en masse against the three proposals — have been unwilling to support such policies.

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

The first, SB171, sponsored by Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas), would have prevented a gun purchase from anyone convicted of a hate crime in the last 10 years. 

Separately, AB354, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas), would have criminalized bringing a gun within 100 feet of an election site, while AB355, also sponsored by Jauregui, would have raised the legal age to purchase certain semi-automatic rifles and shotguns to 21, as well as aimed to close a legal loophole in the state’s 2021 attempt to ban so-called “ghost guns.” 

In a statement to The Nevada Independent, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) said she “desperately” wishes the governor would put the safety of Nevadans over partisan politics.

“After his time consoling the families of the 1 October massacre, I expected the governor to have the basic empathy to realize his responsibility to prevent future mass shootings and gun violence tragedies,” Jauregui said in a text message. “I never want a Nevadan to experience the trauma that I and so many have endured.”

She vowed to continue to work on gun violence prevention measures during her time in office.

The three bills passed through the Legislature on party-line votes.

Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) speaks during a press conference outside the Legislature alongside gun control advocates following Gov. Joe Lombardo's veto of a trio of legislative gun control bills in Carson City on Wednesday, May 17, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

In a press conference held immediately after the governor’s office announced the vetoes, legislative Democrats and gun control advocates pilloried the move as “shameful.”

“We sent over three commonsense options, bills, by the way, that Republicans are supporting in other states across this country today,” Harris said. “If this is how he wants to run his office, if these are the first bills he wants to veto, then I say game on.”

Though she did not clarify what other states she meant in her remarks, Republican lawmakers in Texas moved to advance a bill raising the age limit to purchase certain assault-style weapons through an initial committee earlier this month, following a spate of shooting violence this spring. 

However, in legal citations included in the three veto messages sent to lawmakers Wednesday, Lombardo leaned heavily on the potential for two of the measures — AB354 and AB355 — to falter under relatively new Supreme Court precedent established within the last two years. 

In both instances, the governor’s office cited New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, a 2021 case in which the court’s 6-3 conservative majority ruled that state-level gun control legislation could only be deemed constitutional if there was a historic precedent for such laws. 

“As such, were this bill to become law, it is unlikely it would pass constitutional muster,” Lombardo’s veto message on AB355 said.

Updated: 5/17/23 - This story was updated to include additional details from a press conference held by legislative Democrats and gun control advocates on Wednesday.


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