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The challenge of passing gun control laws after mass shootings

Nevada has implemented several gun control laws since the 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 music festival, but the governor has also vetoed bills he believes are unconstitutional.
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Posted at 12:17 PM, May 14, 2024

In the aftermath of mass shootings, there are often calls to strengthen gun laws, but those calls don't always result in new restrictions. Few people know that better than Nevada State Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui.

On her first day as an intern for former Sen. Harry Reid, a gunman opened fire in the lobby of the federal courthouse in Las Vegas.

Seven years later, she was at the Route 91 music festival where 58 people were killed and hundreds of others were wounded.

Jauregui has authored several bills aimed at curbing gun crime, but some have been vetoed by the state's Republican governor.

"So I'm going to champion these issues. I'm going to bring those back," Jauregui, a Democrat, said. "I'm going to bring back other laws that I think are going to make a difference and actually make our community safer."

Combination photo shows Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump, left, and President Joe Biden.

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Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo said he rejects bills that he believes would be struck down as unconstitutional. One of those bills would have raised the age from 18 to 21 in Nevada to buy a semiautomatic rifle.

The Republican governor told Scripps News that he doesn't believe there is a law that is not currently on the books that would make people safer from gun violence.

"There's a lot of existing laws that the prosecutors have been soft on," he said. "In other words, anything associated with the use of a weapon in the commission of a crime should be prosecuted robustly."

In the years after the shooting at the Route 91 music festival, Nevada took steps to prevent another mass shooting. The state implemented a ban on bump stocks, which allows a semiautomatic rifle to fire almost as fast as a fully automatic machine gun. Nevada also now has a so-called red-flag law, which allows police or family members to ask a judge to take a person's guns away if they believe the person is planning violence. Restrictions on so-called ghost guns were also tightened. The unfinished kits that can be assembled into a firearm cannot legally be sold without a background check.

Jauregui believes even more can be done, including passing a bill that would ban firearms at polling places.

"In a place, which is a sacred place, a place where people go and exercise their right, their most fundamental right, the right for their voice to be heard, they should be able to do that free from intimidation," she said.

Lombardo said he vetoed a previous polling place bill because it included unrelated subjects, but he noted that he might be open to a more narrow measure.

"If it had been a standalone bill, a clean bill on no firearms at polling places, yeah, I would evaluate it," he said.