Las Vegas Sun

September 29, 2023


Festival-going legislator sparks change in gun laws

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui

Miranda Alam/Special to Weekly

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, proponent of gun control legislation, poses for a portrait at Bottega Exchange in Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui had goals. She’d come back to a full legislative session for the first time since a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest festival, killing 58 and wounding hundreds.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, proponent of gun control legislation, poses for a portrait at Bottega Exchange in Las Vegas on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. Launch slideshow »

Jauregui was at the festival with her husband and friends. She remembered her husband crawling on top of her, and she remembers running to the Tropicana, then to Hooters, then into a car as somebody offered a ride.

Gun control, she said, was always a priority for her, but after Oct. 1, 2017, it became her No. 1 issue. In the first legislative session after the tragedy, Jauregui came in with ambition. She brought forward an omnibus gun bill — Assembly Bill 291 — tackling multiple gun-related issues and making a name for herself as one of the most prevalent gun control crusaders in Carson City.

While introducing the bill in committee, Jauregui held back tears.

“It took me eight days before I could have a verbal conversation with my parents, and I’m pretty sure that night has changed me forever.” Jauregui told the committee. “Committee, no matter how hard it is to share my story, I will do it as many times as it takes to prevent any person of family from having to share my experience.”

The bill Jauregui headed tackled multiple matters, including lowering the legal blood alcohol content level for firearm possession, requiring safe storage under certain circumstances involving children, banning bump stocks on a state level and implementing a “red-flag” law allowing the state to temporarily seize guns from people whose families or law enforcement have petitioned the court to declare a risk.

The bill was backed by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control advocacy center who testified in support.

Mike McLively, a senior staff attorney with the center, said that the bill would help shore up protections against gun violence in Nevada.

“This is absolutely an issue of life and death,” he said. “Hundreds of lives are being lost in the state every single year and there’s certainly more that we could be doing to prevent that.”

The final bill, though, did not meet all of Jauregui’s goals. She also wanted it to repeal Nevada’s preemption law.

Preemption, in the general sense, is giving ultimate power to enact laws to the highest form of government. For example, states cannot enact laws that conflict with federal law, and many states have various levels of preemption laws on the books stopping local governments from passing laws that would conflict with state statute.

Nevada’s preemption laws extend to gun control. In the 2015 legislative session, the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a law barring local governments from passing more restrictive gun control measures than the state. The law’s passage ended a decades-long handgun registration program in Clark County.

No state that has enacted a preemption law, Jauregui said, has repealed it afterward.

“I want Nevada to be the first one,” she said, stressing that the state needs to be a pioneer.

She’s already received some support.

Battle Born Progress, one of the state’s leading progressive organizations, did not use the bill as part of its legislative scorecard ranking lawmakers on their progressive activity because of the changes the bill went through in the legislative process.

The organization did, however, “strongly commend” Jauregui for bringing the bill forward and said it would work with her on addressing the state’s preemption law.

Jauregui said that state action on gun control should be the minimum, not the maximum. Local governments, she said, should be able to act on gun control if they identify further needs in their community.

“I’m a firm believer that … the state should be the floor of firearm legislation,” she said.

Municipalities, she said, shouldn’t be bound by the floor, but be able to “build upon it,” she said.

While she was disappointed that repeal of preemption didn’t pass, Jauregui said that she knew going into the process that she wasn’t going to get “100% of my wish list” and that it was more important the bill had broad support.

Now she’s looking toward the future, talking with the Nevada Gun Safety Coalition — a collection of gun activists and groups — and discussing possible topics for the 2021 session.

“I think what AB291 did was just start the conversation,” she said.