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November 27, 2021

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Nevada Territory

Democratic infighting unfolds over state gun bill

Day 3 - 2011 Legislative Session

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera speaks before an Assembly meeting on the third day of the 2011 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, in Carson City.

Updated Monday, April 4, 2011 | 6:17 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas

Sun Coverage

In a striking bit of intra-party fighting, Sen. John Lee, a North Las Vegas Democrat, laid into fellow Democrat Assembly Speaker John Oceguera for "plagiarizing" other legislators' gun bills.

"I hope that in your zest for self promotion and aggrandizement in trying to receive a coveted A+ rating from the National Rifle Association that you haven't jeopardized the ability to pass sensible and much needed legislation concerning the gun rights of Nevadans," Lee wrote in a letter to Oceguera.

Both Lee and Oceguera are considering running for Congress. Lee is also considered an undecided vote when it comes to raising taxes and undoing Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed cuts.

Democratic leaders, particularly in the Assembly, have called a number of press conferences during the session to highlight their agenda.

Harsh words are usually spoken behind closed doors in the Legislative Building, and reserved for end-of-session maneuvers. Some veteran lobbyists were startled.

Oceguera said his omnibus gun bill comes from a list of legislative priorities sent out by the Nevada Rifle Association.

"I'm really disappointed that Sen. Lee chose to release his concerns in this forum," Oceguera said Monday afternoon. "I have an open door. I'm accessible."

Oceguera said he had no problem adding other legislators' names to his bill, and testified to that.

Lee, in an interview, said "this body is becoming too traumatized by bullies at the top. Too few people are making decisions for everyone."

He declined to offer other specific examples, or extend the criticism to his leader, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas. But both in his letter and in the interview, he said he was motivated by a concern for the example leadership was setting for new legislators.

"You don't harm your own caucus, you don't step on their shoulders," he said in the interview. "You're their leader, not their slave master."

He said there's a "climate of fear to go against leadership of both houses. That is wrong."

Lee wrote that Oceguera showed "callous disregard for the rights of colleagues." He asked that Oceguera add the names of the "offended Assemblyman legislators" to his bill and allow Senate Bill 126, which Lee sponsored with Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, to be sent to a work session.

Lee said his bill would allow a concealed carry permit for a semi-automatic handgun to be good for all semi-automatics.

Oceguera said he was looking to get legislation passed.

"The best way to pass legislation is to get consensus," he said. One bill, to allow firearms to be carried on higher education campuses, he supports, but is not sponsoring.

Oceguera wrote back to Lee this afternoon, tut-tutting Lee’s “angry” tone and managing to buff his credentials with the NRA in the process.

“I take great pride in the accessibility of Nevada legislators, and I take my responsibility to be accessible to my colleagues very seriously,” he wrote. “I’m sorry you felt like you could not take advantage of this.”

He repeated that he would be glad to add names of legislators to Assembly Bill 282. He added that since 2000, he has been endorsed by the NRA.

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