CARSON CITY — Nevada state Sen. Debbie Smith said she’ll introduce a bill this legislative session to keep guns away from people convicted of domestic violence. But it likely faces an uphill battle in a Legislature controlled by Republicans, who generally oppose expanded gun control.
The Sparks Democrat said Thursday that her bill would prohibit people from having a gun if they’re subject to an extended restraining order for domestic violence or if they’ve been convicted of a domestic violence or stalking crime.
“By toughening penalties and taking guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, we can protect women, particularly those who have faced abuse,” Smith said in a statement.
The announcement comes on the heels of a report from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress that found women in Nevada are killed with guns at a much higher rate than the nation overall. Nevada’s rate was eighth in the nation from 2003 to 2012, according to the report.
Currently, state law gives judges the option to prohibit a person from having a gun if a restraining order has been filed against them. Smith’s bill would strengthen that requirement by making it mandatory.
“We think this is narrow enough to address a discrete issue,” said Democratic state Sen. Aaron Ford of Las Vegas. “It should be a bipartisan issue.”
Of the 185 women who were killed by an intimate partner in Nevada from 2003 to 2012, half were fatally shot, the center found. But report author Chelsea Parsons couldn’t say how many of the perpetrators had a previous domestic violence conviction or were subject to an extended restraining order at the time of the killing, and would have fallen under the purview of the bill.
About 1,300 extended restraining orders were issued statewide in 2013, according to a Nevada Department of Public Safety report.
Nevada Firearms Coalition President Don Turner said he thinks current state law goes far enough, and that expanding gun restrictions isn’t the most effective way to curb domestic violence.
“The real problem here is that the focus of these laws is on the gun,” he said.
Groups promoting gun-control measures, such as Everytown for Gun Safety, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars this past campaign cycle to the Nevada Democratic Party and Democratic candidates, including Smith.
But Republicans, many of whom campaigned on protecting gun rights and received contributions from the National Rifle Association, took control of both chambers of the Legislature in November and have the power to give the bill a hearing or let it die. Republican Sen. Greg Brower and GOP Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who chair the judiciary committees that would likely take up such a proposal, didn’t respond to requests for comment about the bill’s prospects.
Organizations like Everytown, which is heavily funded by former New York City Michael Bloomberg, have a plan to circumvent the Legislature should gun control measures founder: They’ve gathered enough signatures to put a question about gun-purchase background checks on the 2016 ballot.
“Everytown for Gun Safety made political contributions and activated Nevadans to support candidates for public office who stand up for gun safety policies,” group spokeswoman Erika Soto Lamb said. “Now we’re pursuing the same strategy that worked in Washington State and taking background checks directly to voters via ballot initiative in 2016.”