Last year, a bill emerged that seemed to upend the traditional balance of power in Carson City. It also offered to close loopholes that allow criminals to obtain lethal firearms. That bill was SB 221. And State Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise) authored that bill.
SB 221 passed the Legislature, but Governor Brian Sandoval (R) vetoed the bill despite its broad public support. And now, Nevada Republicans are targeting Senator Justin Jones as he runs for reelection to a full term. (He was first elected in 2012 to fill the remainder of Elizabeth Halseth's [R-Enterprise] term after she resigned from office.)
Even though polls have shown very strong public support for expanding background checks for gun purchases made at gun shows and online, the NRA and gun industry are pouring money into the campaign to defeat background checks initiatives meant to do what Congress refused to do on the federal level last year. And even though Nevada's own background checks initiative has just been cleared by a Carson City district court to begin collecting signatures soon, the gun lobby and G-O-TEA political operatives still want to "make an example" of Senator Jones for daring to even propose SB 221 last year.
This may prove to be a turning point for both the politics and policy of gun violence. For decades, the NRA and the rest of the gun lobby have demanded complete fealty from state and federal legislators. And for decades, that's exactly what they've received from state and federal legislators.
But last year, something changed. The reality of gun violence hit home hard. And that was even enough to convince US Senator Harry Reid (D), someone who had sported a "B" rating from the NRA, to reevaluate federal gun safety policies. But when Nevada's other US Senator joined the G-O-TEA led filibuster against a mere background checks bill, Nevadans then looked to the state government to see if we could at least fix this problem at the state level.
State Senator Jones and gun safety advocates rounded up enough votes for SB 221 to pass... Then Governor Sandoval vetoed it. Yet even as the background checks initiative goes to the people for consideration, the gun lobby still wants to "make an example" of Senator Jones for daring to act. The next few months will tell whether they can maintain a stranglehold over this state. The next few months will tell whether Nevadans may actually turn around and dare to act on gun violence despite the gun lobby's extensive and expensive political threats.