A prophetic protector has become a political panderer.
Back in December 2016, Sheriff Joe Lombardo of Clark County, Nevada, called for restrictions on high-capacity gun magazines.
“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 told the Las Vegas Sun.
Ten months later, a gunman on the the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas with two dozen AR-15-type rifles and hundred or so high-capacity magazines rained bullets on a music festival below, killing 60 and wounding 500.
“Prophetic, isn’t it?” Lombardo told Australia’s ABC in the aftermath of the slaughter.
But as the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor in this year’s Republican primary, Lombardo made himself more palatable to the MAGA crowd by saying the question of magazine capacity should be left to the gun industry.
He also came out against the state’s “red flag” law. And he actually voiced support for untraceable ghost guns that have law enforcement across the country alarmed.
At 11 p.m. on Tuesday, Lombardo was declared the winner by a narrow margin. But he had lost the respect of some survivors of the Las Vegas mass shooting who had come to admire him after the slaughter as a figure symbolizing “Vegas Strong.”
“It’s horrible, it’s disgusting,” Marisa Marano told the Daily Beast on Wednesday.
Marisa attended the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Festival with her younger sister, Geena Marano. Marisa threw herself over Geena Marano when the shooting started, shielding her with her body.
“That’s what older sisters do,” Marisa said.
A person next to them was killed. Three others died where the sisters had been standing before they went to buy deep-fried Oreos. The sisters had risen during a lull in the shooting and Marisa remembers having to step over a woman in a blood-stained white shirt as they fled. They themselves escaped injury, but the physical scars remain. And Marisa is left with the belief that just as she did what older sisters do, our leaders are supposed to protect us from such horrors even if it places themselves at political risk.
Lombardo once seemed such a noble figure and Marisa speaks admiringly of his performance in the days following the shooting, when he was running the investigation. He held regular press briefings, providing the public with reliable facts in the wake of homicidal insanity. He became a star symbolizing Vegas Strong.
“Everybody looked to him for the recent updates of everything,” Morano said. “And to be honest, he did an amazing job with all of that. That’s what’s so surprising about this.”
The man who became a viable candidate with star power born of the shooting then betrayed the victims in order to win.
“Honestly he probably would’ve had my vote if his views were a little bit different,” Marisa said.
A statement of principles on Lombardo’s campaign website—titled ”What Joe Stands For”— says, “Joe believes that gun manufacturers design magazine capacities appropriately to maximize safety. Therefore, as governor, Joe would not sign any law restricting manufacturer limits on firearm magazines. To do otherwise would be a violation of the United States Constitution.”
When it comes to ghost guns, the site says, “Joe supports the right to build a firearm for personal use. Left-wing politicians are working hard to take away our right to create our own guns. As governor, Joe will veto any legislation that takes away that right.”
When it comes to the “red flag” law, which allows the police or family members to petition a judge to confiscate guns from someone exhibiting dangerous behavior, the site says, “Joe believes every American has the right to due process and is innocent until proven guilty.
Lombardo is also against restrictions on gun ownership. He does say he is for background checks—only in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and “those struggling with mental health illness” but “not as a vehicle for gun control advocates to restrict our Second Amendment rights.”
The site notes that Lombardo is a “lifetime member of the NRA.” He said nothing about guns or magazines after the slaughter of 19 children and two adults in Uvalde, Texas, in May. He just took the standard NRA tack, tweeting that he and his wife, Donna, were “grieving the horrific loss of life in Uvalde, Texas today.”
“Please join us in praying for the families affected and for the entire Uvalde community tonight,” he said.
Among the thousands who did more than pray were Marisa and Geena. They joined the “Don’t Look Away” march in Washington.
“Basically telling Congress that now is not the time to look away, that we’re demanding change, that enough is enough,” Marisa said. “I feel like everything is falling of deaf ears and Congress needs to do something.”
She fears that the survivors of Uvlalde will be haunted by nightmarish memories for the rest of their lives.
“Children should not have to go through what my sister and I went through,” she said. “This is ridiculous.”
Marisa, who is 40, said that when she hears of a mass shooting she doesn’t want to send her 6-year-old daughter to school. She added that the lasting impact on her also had an effect on the girl..
“She is extremely hypervigilant,” Marisa said. “And the reason why is because I am. The trauma and the gun violence that occurred in my life has now had a direct impact on her. When she hears a loud noise, she goes, ‘Mommy, what’s that?’ She hears fireworks and she goes, ‘What was that?’”
Lombardo and his spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. He now faces the Democrat incumbent, Gov. Steven Sisolak, who was in office at the time of the Route 91 massacre and attended some of the briefings where Lombardo seemed so admirable.
Even if he wins, Lombardo will have lost the respect of Marisa and others who were there when the gunfire erupted. And the leader who had once seemed Vegas Strong will just be Vegas Wrong.