‘Stickler for facts’ Fiore shrugs off domestic violence, gun reform groups’ concerns

facts
Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore (Facebook profile photo).

While discussing a potential change to the city’s domestic violence law that would allow those convicted to keep their firearms, Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore berated domestic violence and gun reform groups pushing back against the proposal. 

“I’m a stickler for facts,” she said dismissing data presented by some of the groups.

That remark from Fiore — who in 2015 said during a radio program she believed cancer is “a fungus” that can be cured by “flushing with, say, salt water, sodium carbonate, through that line and flushing out the fungus” — prompted mockery on Twitter Monday.

“When we are talking about a city ordinance that applies to the city, and you guys come up here and give me national numbers, that does not work for me,” Fiore said. “When you come up here and represent Everytown (for Gun Safety), that does not work for me because the numbers are skewed. It’s national and does not belong in the city of Las Vegas.” 

During its Monday recommending committee meeting, which determines what ordinances continue on to the full council agenda, the city voted to advance the proposal. 

The ordinance is scheduled to be voted on by the council Wednesday, a day before the same groups opposing the proposal are hosting a candlelight vigil at City Hall to recognize domestic violence victims in honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. 

Those opposed note that Nevada has consistently ranked poorly when it comes to domestic violence.

The Violence Policy Center released its annual “When Men Murder Women” report in September that showed Nevada ranked fourth highest in the nation in men who murder women as a result of intimate partner violence. In the cases where a weapon was identified, guns were used for more than half. 

“We have lagged behind other states for decades in the way we are dealing with domestic violence,” said Liz Ortenburger, the CEO of SafeNest. “Simply removing one portion (of the domestic violence law) to make it work logistically for the city is not the right move for victims.”

She also said that the city “carries 55 percent of all misdemeanor cases for domestic violence for the state” or on average 4,500 per year.

In 2015, the Nevada Legislature enacted legislation that prevents those charged with domestic violence from possessing a firearm. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled in September that defendants in those cases are constitutionally entitled to a trial by jury. 

The city argued it doesn’t have the infrastructure — no ability to summon a jury pool or even jury boxes in its courtrooms — to comply with that ruling, which is why it is trying to rewrite existing law.

Now that the supreme court ruling is in effect, the city attorney’s office noted that the criminal division is charging people with simple battery opposed to misdemeanor domestic violence in order to not trigger the need for a jury trial. 

“This ordinance would at least allow us to elevate it back up to battery domestic violence with the provisions in the state, obviously without the firearm,” Councilman Stavros Anthony said. 

Ortenburger along with organizers from Moms Demand Action argued removing the provision that takes away firearms, would increase the chance of a homicide.

She added the new ordinance would increase homicide rates for both victims and police officers under the new provision. “In 2017, more officers were killed on domestic violence calls in our country than any other type of call,” she added

William Horne, a lobbyist for Safe Nest, said the city is leaving itself open to be challenged legally. “Legally, it’s a circumvention of state statute,” he said. “The state found it important to put this provision in statute in 2015 for the protection of victims. Simply removing it from the ordinance is an illegal circumvention of state statute.”

The city attorney’s office believes they would be able to defend the ordinance in the face of any legal challenges. 

Instead of rewriting the city’s domestic violence laws, Horne urged state lawmakers to call a special session to make necessary fixes.

Henderson and North Las Vegas are also proposing similar workarounds to the supreme court ruling.

Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Lots of people need firearms for jobs, law enforcement, security guards, trainers, hunting guides, ranchers, ATMs and armored car employees. Native Americans and other folks go hunting to stretch food budget.

    What is so unacceptable about a jury trial?

  2. There is a current conflict between the new state law and the city charters for major cities in Nevada, which will have to be reconciled. Currently the city of Las Vegas is not authorized for any jury trials, and the current Municipal Court courtrooms have no place for a jury to convene. A new Municipal Court building is now under construction, but it won’t be ready until late next year. The city has put forth the new ordinance as a work-around to keep adjudicating domestic violence cases and provide the services and protections appropriate for domestic violence cases until those courtrooms are ready and the conflict in laws has been reconciled.

  3. The issue here is, there’s nothing that says that ONLY cities can prosecute domestic violence. The City of Las Vegas could just refer these cases up to Justice Court. Justice Courts do have jury boxes and do have the legal capacity to hold trials, meaning that people who commit domestic violence in the City could both be prosecuted and have their guns taken away if they’re convicted. This would solve the problem that domestic violence advocates are talking about, while also respecting the constitutional right to a jury.

    So why isn’t the City of Las Vegas pursuing that path? Why are they instead deciding to let people convicted of domestic violence keep their guns? The answer is, they make a ton of money from fines and they care more about their revenue structure than justice or public safety or people’s rights. This whole episode isn’t just about the specific issue of domestic violence – it’s a broader indictment of how our court system functions.

    https://www.citylab.com/equity/2017/09/municipal-courts-war-on-poor-people-explained/541395/

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