The City of Las Vegas voted 6-1 to pass an ordinance that allows those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence to keep their guns despite concerns of domestic violence and gun violence prevention groups.
Councilman Cedric Crear, who cast the sole vote against the measure, said he didn’t think the city had exhausted all other options.
While City Attorney Brad Jerbic said the ordinance wasn’t a perfect solution, he urged the council to not “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
“In a perfect world, we would be able to do jury trials,” he said.
The Nevada Legislature enacted legislation in 2015 that prevents those charged with domestic violence from possessing a firearm. In September 2019, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled defendants in those cases are constitutionally entitled to a trial by jury.
Jerbic said the city, which handles about 5,000 domestic violence cases per year, isn’t equipped to handle jury trials.
Even if the city was set up to conduct jury trials, he argued without proper resources such as more judges or attorneys, it would create backlog in domestic violence cases.
On average, he said the city processes five domestic violence cases per day. He estimated that would decrease to about one per day if it went through a jury trial.
The city has been prosecuting domestic violence cases as simple battery in order to avoid triggering the need to use a jury. With the newly passed ordinance, Jerbic said the city is able to yet again prosecute misdemeanor domestic violence cases, just without taking away firearms of those who have been convicted.
While voting in favor of the ordinance, Councilman Brian Knudsen called the measure a tourniquet and urged the city to do more to address the concerns of domestic violence and gun violence advocates. They fear the new ordinance will put victims at risk.
After speaking Monday at the recommending committee meeting — a council subcommittee that advanced the ordinance to the full council — representatives from the domestic violence organization SafeNest and gun violence prevention group Moms Demand Action returned to speak against the proposal.
William Horne, a lobbyist on behalf of SafeNest, suggested the city ask the Supreme Court for some sort of extension or delay and, once again, called on state lawmakers to hold a special legislative session to fix the law.
Jerbic said the Supreme Court won’t hear any appeals. Even if it did, the city would have to comply with the ruling until it did.
Representing Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Chuck Calloway weighed in acknowledging that while the city is “between a rock and a hard place,” he had concerns about removing the firearm component.
Councilwoman Olivia Diaz said the situation is another example of how the state suffers from having a Legislature that only meets every other year.
The City of Henderson passed a similar ordinance Tuesday. The City of North Las Vegas is scheduled to hear a similar proposal at today’s meeting.