LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed three gun control bills on Wednesday in Carson City.
“I will not support legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of Nevadans,” Lombardo said in a tweet. “Much of the legislation I vetoed today is in direct conflict with legal precedent and established constitutional protections. Therefore, I cannot support them.”
A report from The Associated Press indicated Lombardo’s office threatened to ax the state budget if his priorities aren’t addressed, “the strongest conflict yet for Nevada’s split-party government.”
The gun control bills were passed on party-line votes by the Democrat-controlled Nevada Legislature on Monday:
- Assembly Bill 354 (AB354): Prohibits guns at polling locations, vote centers, election sites, ballot drop-off locations, and ballot tabulation areas. The bill also updates definitions regarding ghost guns.
- Assembly Bill 355 (AB355): Prohibits individuals under 21 years of age from owning or possessing semiautomatic centerfire rifles or semiautomatic shotguns.
- Senate Bill 171 (SB171): Prohibits anyone convicted of a hate crime from owning, purchasing or possessing a firearm for 10 years.
Democrats don’t have the votes to override the vetoes unless a Republican lawmaker votes with them.
If a budget is not approved by July 1, state services, including schools and state agencies, may shut down.
“If he follows through and stakes out an extremist position, he will have to explain to Nevadans why their kids’ schools are not opening on time, public safety services are reduced, and other essential state services are shut down,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said in a statement.
Lombardo’s office did not provide additional comment on the budget veto threat beyond confirming his position.
The vetoes show Lombardo’s Republican values and support of the Second Amendment.
In explaining why he vetoed AB355, Lombardo called the bill’s goals admirable, but challenged the bill’s constitutionality. He cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states “gun restrictions are constitutional only insofar as there is a tradition of such regulation in United States history.” He also quoted a federal court ruling that said Second Amendment protections “extend in full to law-abiding adults aged eighteen or older.”
AB354 was criticized as “too broad” in its attempt to increase public confidence in safety around elections. Lombardo said there is no notable history of gun violence at election facilities in Nevada. He also said restricting guns within 100 feet of a “ballot-box” was untenable because of the wide presence of voting sites. The ghost gun definitions provided in AB354 are secondary to Second Amendment protections, he said.
Lombardo objected to SB171’s reach, depriving Second Amendment rights to people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes. “Many of the more violent and egregious offenses under Nevada law that are commonly associated with hate crimes can and should be prosecuted as felonies in the first place, especially when there is a connection between the underlying crime and the use of guns. It is a better solution to make these types of hate crimes felonies than to further penalize low-level offenders – especially when existing law sufficiently addresses the issue.”
The Governor’s Office offered no hint on Monday that the vetoes were coming, saying only, “As bills are presented to Gov. Lombardo in their final form, our office will comment and respond appropriately.”
Before taking the governor’s job, Lombardo was sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
AB354 and AB355 were sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas), who has spoken for gun control measures and the distress she experienced from attending the Route 91 Harvest festival, when gunman Stephen Paddock killed 60 people on the Las Vegas Strip. Her emotional testimony has moved other Democratic lawmakers during committee hearings.
“I desperately wish the governor would put the safety of Nevadans over partisan politics,” Jauregui said in a statement released by Battle Born Progress. “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. Too many Nevadans have lost their lives to gun violence and even more have been left as survivors, wondering when it will happen again. I never want a Nevadan to experience the trauma that I and so many have endured. I will continue to work on gun violence prevention measures during my time as an elected official.”
Sen. Dallas Harris, sponsor of SB171, has reminded lawmakers in comments on several bills that mass shootings continue to happen. A report from the Nevada Hospital Association on Wednesday noted that the shooting in New Mexico on Tuesday represents the 225th mass shooting in the U.S. so far.
“Today, Gov. Lombardo sided with the national gun lobby over the public safety of Nevadans,” Harris said. “Nevadans overwhelmingly support improving community safety with common sense gun violence prevention measures. At a time when hate crimes are on the rise and communities are increasingly targeted because of race, ethnicity, religion, and other immutable parts of their identities, we should be doing more to protect our citizens. Instead, the governor has turned his back on Nevadans facing this epidemic of gun violence.”
Republican lawmakers have stood in unity against the three bills, often criticizing Democrats for limiting testimony on the matter to shut out voices supporting the Second Amendment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.