CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoed a trio of gun-control bills Wednesday, in what could be an early indication of how he’ll respond to ambitious measures backed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
The vetoes were the first issued by Lombardo in his first year as governor. Legislators approved the measures after contentious gun-control hearings in the biennial session. Lombardo, a former Clark County sheriff, gave no indication as governor before Wednesday on how he’d respond to the measures.
“I will not support legislation that infringes on the constitutional rights of Nevadans,” Lombardo said in a statement.
One bill would have raised the eligible age to possess semiautomatic shotguns and assault weapons from 18 to 21. Another would have barred possession of a gun within 100 yards (91 meters) of an election site entrance with narrow exceptions, while also solidifying language meant to ban homemade “ghost guns.” A third bill would have prohibited owning a firearm within a decade of a gross misdemeanor or felony hate crime conviction.
The veto came moments before a scheduled news conference by Democrats to urge Lombardo to sign the legislation. Groups, including gun control advocacy groups Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action, along with progressive advocacy group Battle Born Progress and the Democratic Senate and Assembly leadership stood in front of the legislative building and chastised the decision.
“I desperately wish the governor would put the safety of Nevadans ahead of partisan politics,” said Democratic Assembly Majority Floor Leader Sandra Jauregui, who sponsored two of the bills and survived the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting.
She said the bills would better protect against recent mass shootings, including one this week in New Mexico, where an 18-year-old gunman killed three and injured six.
Lombardo has previously bucked other Republicans by supporting universal background checks. But he still positions himself as firmly pro-Second Amendment while touting his NRA membership. While on the campaign trail, he vowed to veto any legislation curtailing “ghost guns,” which can be nearly impossible for law enforcement officials to trace.
In his veto letters, Lombardo cited recent court rulings that struck down gun control legislation. He said that existing law sufficiently addresses people convicted of hate crimes and the bill “would effectively open the door to more laws” for those convicted of gross misdemeanors.
He said the bill prohibiting firearms from election sites is “commendable” for increasing trust in elections, but that it was too broad.
Democratic leaders — who hold a veto-proof supermajority in the state Assembly and are one away from that in the Senate — vowed to press for gun-control legislation “with or without (Lombardo’s) cooperation”
“We sent over three common sense options — bills, by the way, that Republicans are supporting in other states across this country today,” said Democratic Sen. Dallas Harris, who sponsored the bill prohibiting someone from possessing a firearm ten years after conviction of a hate crime. “And if this is how he wants to run his office, if these are the first bills he wants to veto, then game on.”
Lombardo, who steered a moderate path compared to his primary challengers in the 2022 midterms, has remained tight-lipped about several other Democratic-backed bills still in play. One would establish trust fund investments for the children of families who receive Medicaid, while another would expand Medicaid or similar programs to undocumented children and pregnant parents. Other measures include criminalizing fake electors and putting a limit on certain drug prices when it comes to Medicare rates.
Stern is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Follow Stern on Twitter: @gabestern326