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October 21, 2014

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State Government:

Gun right advocates score victory when committee declines to enter assault weapons discussion

Gun rights advocates scored a victory Tuesday when an administrative committee decided not to talk about banning assault weapons.

The Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice voted 8-5 to override the suggestion of its chairman, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to allow testimony on assault weapons and their definition in front of an overflowing crowd in the Carson City committee room and about 25 people watching via television in Elko.

Clark County District Judge David Barker, a committee member, suggested removing the item from the agenda, saying the assault weapons issue is outside the jurisdiction of the commission. He said there is nothing in the law that permitted the commission to take up the issue.

But Nick Anthony, legislative attorney for the committee, said the committee had broad powers such as talking about carrying a concealed weapon.

Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn, also a committee member, said this issue should be presented to the full Legislature, not for a one- or two-hour hearing before the committee.

Horne defended the right of the committee to talk about assault weapons. He said it was a good opportunity to allow differing opinions and that it ensures the 2013 Legislature "doesn't start from ground zero."

He argued unsuccessfully that it "is well within our purview to review" the assault weapon controversy. He acknowledged it was an emotional issue and complained that fellow Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, was spreading misinformation.

He said Ellison, in a letter to the editor in the Elko Free Press, implied that Horne favored a ban on assault weapons.

"It amounted to bullying," Horne said, adding that he does not have the right to ban these weapons.

Ellison should have contacted him to clear the air, Horne said.

After the meeting, Ellison said he meant no disrespect for Horne and that he tried to contact Horne by email before the meeting but got no reply. He said that is when he sent his letter to the editor.

Ellison said he was happy with the committee's decision.

Gun advocates say defining what constitutes an assault weapon is difficult. For example, modern sporting rifles such as the Urge Mini-14 and the Bushmaster DCM could be defined as assault weapons.

The Center to Prevent Gun Violence says assault weapons "are semi-automatic firearms designed with military features to allow rapid spray firing for the quick and efficient killing of humans." The center cited the shooting in Aurora, Colo., in which 12 persons were killed and 58 wounded. One of the weapons used was a Smith & Wesson M&P15 assault rifle.

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