Nevada Legislature: Bill would bar suits against shooters in justified killings

Nevada Assembly Republicans argued in favor of a bill Tuesday that would expand the rights of people who kill someone in self-defense, although critics said it would breed a culture of “shoot first, ask questions later.”

Republican Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton presented AB 171, which would extend protections to people defending their vehicles or homes from an invader and provide civil immunity for people who commit a justifiable homicide. Her voice broke with emotion as she told stories of victims of violent crimes, including Jessica Chambers, a 19-year-old Mississippi woman who was burned alive at a gas station in December.

“Firearms can save lives in these incidents,” Shelton said. “Normal Nevadans and Americans simply want to stop being victimized by criminals.”

Democrats and civil liberties groups vehemently opposed the bill, saying such laws disproportionately harm minorities and would increase the number of fatal shootings in the state. They argued that existing law offered enough protection for people in a justified homicide, and they said the bill would erode due process.

“If you do engage in self-defense, that will come out in court,” said Vanessa Spinazola, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. “We are basically encouraging a shoot-first-figure-out-what-happened-later mentality.”

But bill proponents said a civil lawsuit against a shooter in a justifiable homicide is distressing and could be financially devastating for a person who didn’t want to kill in the first place.

Shelton argued that her bill would “end the nightmare” for those acting in self-defense.

A bill with similar provisions is working its way through the Senate. Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson last week introduced SB 175, which would expand the definition of justifiable homicide as well as limit firearm access to people convicted of domestic abuse crimes.


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