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Working to protect Reno’s citizens from gun violence

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This opinion column was submitted by Joaquin Rafael Roces, candidate for Reno mayor. 

In 2021 Judge John P. Schlegelmilch of the Third District Court in Nevada nullified part a new state law banning untraceable firearms assembled from kits. Schlegelmich sided with a Dayton-based gun kit manufacturer in finding that sections of the law are too vague to be enforced. In his decision Schlegelmich cited that Polymer80 would “suffer irreparable harm” under the new “ghost gun” law.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas), who survived the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, sponsored AB 286, which passed on straight-party line votes in both the Nevada Assembly and Senate. That means not a single “thoughts and prayers” Republican voted to support the gun safety law.

The same year, Schegelmich announced his decision, two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were badly wounded in an ambush shooting that year sued the Lyon County, Nevada company for making the parts for a “ghost gun” used in the attack. No surprise that the Third Judicial District Court sits in Lyon County where Polymer80 operates from. The cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. filed suits as well as the families of Michelle McFayden, Diana Steele, Daniel Le and Joseph McHugh, who died in the November 2017 shooting, and Francisco Cardenas, who suffered serious injuries. Schelegmich’s decision held Polymer80’s profits above the rights and lives of Americans, including law enforcement officers.

In early April, yet another tragedy of gun violence rocked the downtown area of Sacramento, leaving six dead and 12 injured. When will public officials like Schelegmich and Republicans realize that their first and foremost duty is the safety and welfare of the people who elected them?

On Dec. 11, 2016, approximately 10 months prior to the devastating shooting in Las Vegas, Clark County voters voted overwhelmingly in support of universal background checks for firearms purchases. This passage made it abundantly clear that the voters in Clark County were concerned about gun violence. 

The Las Vegas Sun interviewed Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo.

“I’m a very avid hunter, I was in the military myself, and there’s no need to have a high-capacity magazine for any practical reason,” Lombardo said during the interview with the Sun.

The Sun published an editorial in 2016 stating that Clark County Democrats who were swept back into control of the Legislature during the 2016 election should feel emboldened to take action on the issue during the 2017 session, given that the background check initiative passed by more than 100,000 votes in Clark County.

Then along came a man named Paddock and on one evening in October 2017, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, Nevada, opened fire on the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada. From his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay hotel, he fired more than 1,000 bullets, killing 60 people and wounding 411 with the ensuing panic bringing the number of injured to 867.

Twenty-four firearms, a large quantity of ammunition, and numerous high-capacity magazines capable of holding up to 100 rounds apiece were found in Paddock’s suite. Lombardo, now the official Republican candidate for Governor, has stated that he no longer is opposed to banning “high capacity magazines.” In hourlong Zoom interview with members of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association on June 25, 2021, Lombardo said if elected governor, the issue of banning high-capacity magazines was a “nonstarter” and “not even a discussion for me to have.”

Lombardo also promises to repeal the ban on ghost guns, and perhaps repealing AB 286 altogether.

The Los Angeles Times reported a conversation during a March 2018 meeting between Donald Trump, who got nearly $10.6 million in support from the NRA in 2016, and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pennsylvania). Trump asked Toomey if the bipartisan background-check bill he helped author in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting included a provision to raise the age to buy rifles from 18 to 21. Toomey said it did not.

“You know why?” Trump prodded. “Because you’re afraid of the NRA.”

Now that Lombardo has taken the “King’s Coin,” he has become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the NRA. In election cycles between 2010 and 2018, the NRA spent nearly $36.4 million in support of Republicans, while also spending about $256,000 to oppose members of the GOP in primaries, general elections and the special Senate election in Alabama last year. That included defeating sitting Republicans with moderate views on gun safety, like Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar.

In Sparks, as apartment towers rise above their new outdoor area on Victorian Square, preventing an incident like what happened in Las Vegas and recently in Sacramento is a concern and a topic of “unspoken conversations” among city officials. Darren Mack murdered his Charla Mack on June 12, 2006, and Judge Chuck Weller was shot the same day. Judge Weller shot through the window of his courthouse chambers by Mack while he was in his chambers at the Mills B. Lane Justice Center on 1 South Sierra Street. Mack killed his estranged wife, Charla, and then drove to the parking garage across the river from the courthouse and fired at Judge Weller with a high-powered rifle. 

A beloved teacher and National Guardsman was killed by a handgun at Sparks Middle School. Sixty deaths were attributed to the Las Vegas shooter, which sadly remains the largest mass shooting event in modern history. Republicans are gambling with the lives of Nevadans and even with Americans across the nation just to keep their funding flowing. Even as survivors and victims continue to struggle with trauma, closure and grief, Republicans gamble with the lives of Nevadans and Americans across the nation just to keep their campaign pockets flush with NRA’s blood money.

As a candidate for mayor, I will always place the safety of all of Reno’s diverse residents a top priority. Unlike in Sparks, this will be a conversation in the open, working with businesses, citizens and law enforcement. I supported AB 286 in its entirety and I believe, as a veteran, the language on “unassembled receiver” is clear and concise and that Schlegelmich was in error with his decision. I would take action to ban assault rifles for the city and make the downtown and midtown districts “gun-free” zones. It is ridiculous that this city has a law banning “skateboarding” but allows the most lethal weapons of man to proliferate unchecked. 

I am not advocating for the repeal of the Second Amendment or Article 1, Section 11 of the State Constitution. I believe in both as a fundamental right of citizenship. 

As Chief Kathy Lester said in April, “Gun violence is truly a crisis in our community and has increased not only here in Sacramento but across the nation.”

This is not a constitutional issue; it is a public safety issue.

Joaquin Rafael Roces is a candidate for Reno mayor. 

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