Bill to strengthen Nevada resort’s ability to ban guns passes committee

Geoff Dornan
Nevada Appeal

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill to put teeth in trespass laws involving possession of firearms in resorts was approved on a party-line vote Saturday.

SB452 was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee despite resounding opposition between groups that are normally on opposite sides. Police unions joined the National Rifle Association, the ACLU, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada and a number of Democratic lawmakers in opposing it.

Resorts already have the power to ask any customer to leave but they are required to give the individual a verbal warning before calling police.

Ayesha Molino of MGM Resorts said that can be a problem if the issue is possession of a firearm, which MGM does not permit in its premises. Pointing out that MGM security is not armed, she said effectively, security staff are being asked to enter a situation in which they are not armed but the customer is. She said the concern is that, if the customer refuses to leave, the situation could escalate and become deadly.

“I’m very concerned about what this leads to is stop and frisk,” said Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong, D-Las Vegas.

She said laws like this are disproportionately used against people of color.

That same issue was raised by the ACLU and several others.

“This simply is a potentially deadly bill with good intentions,” said Athar Haseebullah, executive director of the Nevada ACLU.

Clark County Public Defender John Piro also expressed concerns the bill would lead to stop and frisk actions by the Metropolitan Police called to the scene for a suspected firearms violation. He too said the victims would invariably be disproportionately people of color.

Sen. Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, who said the bill “is almost asking to pat some one down.”

Dan Reid of the NRA asked why MGM can’t take care of its own security issues by arming its security staff.

Sen. Fabian Doñate, D-Las Vegas, said in the wake of the October 2019 Harvest Festival massacre that left 58 dead, the bill would help protect resort staff as well as customers from violence.

The bill was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, who said SB452, “is not a stop and frisk bill.” She said it is intended to give resort operators the same ability to keep guns out that schools, libraries and the state Legislature already have. She added it’s completely up to the operators of non-restricted gaming licenses whether they allow firearms on their premises, that it’s not mandatory.

Republican lawmakers attending the joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Judiciary committees also raised objections including that off-duty peace officers who are required by many jurisdictions to have a weapon on their person would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor for doing so in a casino. That was cured by a last minute conceptual amendment.

That amendment also requires a resort banning firearms to post that fact and explain its policy on its website, require the officer who responds to identify himself and give the person the chance to leave voluntarily and, finally, to exclude adjacent properties they own such as malls from the law.

Several private citizens testified that the bill targets lawful gun owners who have a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

And more than one caller pointed out that this issue was debated in the 2019 session and rejected.

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