A Nevada politician has introduced a bill that would bar the city of Las Vegas from enacting tougher gun laws than the state as a whole, including language that would specifically protect "machine guns" from being barred on the Las Vegas strip if the legislature did not bar machine guns across Nevada -- and it is tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).
At the last known meeting of ALEC's "Public Safety and Elections Task Force," a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association proposed amendments to the ALEC "Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act" to add "machine guns" to ALEC's model bill prohibiting local governments from adopting different rules for guns and ammo than a state has as a whole. On March 18, a Nevada state legislator introduced a bill in the statehouse that is almost a word-for-word copy from that ALEC bill, which ALEC has since attempted to distance itself from while doing nothing to stop or repeal such bills.
Nevada Assembly Bill 340 is nearly identical to a version of the ALEC Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act, which was most recently ratified by the ALEC gun task force in late 2011. Here is a sample:
A complete side-by-side can be viewed here.
Blocking Cities from Barring "Machine Guns" and Cop-Killer Bullets?
The Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act has been an ALEC "model bill" since at least 1995. It is a form of state pre-emption legislation prohibiting local units of government -- cities, counties, or municipalities -- from regulating or banning guns in their communities in any way that is tougher or different than the state as a whole. Such legislation would largely permit legislators from a state's rural areas to trump city efforts to impose tougher gun rules. The bill also prohibits local governments from bringing lawsuits against gun and ammunition manufacturers. Local control has traditionally been regarded as a "conservative" principle, but ALEC has a number of state preemption bills to prohibit communities from protecting their own health and welfare -- see, for example, ALEC-led efforts to prohibit locally-owned internet.
Versions of the ALEC/NRA Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act have passed in at least 38 states.
At ALEC's December 2011 States & Nation Policy Summit in Arizona, the NRA brought to ALEC a new set of amendments to the model bill that would, according to the amendment language, specifically ban cities from prohibiting "machine guns" and "submachine guns," as well as prohibit local governments from regulating the sale of ammunition (with no exception for armor piercing ammo or other particularly deadly ammunition), or accessories like high-capacity clips. The bill also gives private individuals the right to sue if they believe a local government rule, regulation, or ordinance violates the state law.
It is not clear why the NRA felt emboldened to add this broader language in 2011, when it had not included the language in the initial 1995 proposal, and did not add it when it was reaffirmed in 1999 (when Koch Industries chaired ALEC's Private Enterprise Board).
The NRA's proposed amendments were approved "unanimously" by the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force on December 2, 2011, according to the minutes of the meeting. Most of these amendments are echoed nearly word-for-word in Nevada's proposed AB 340 -- from the new statement of purpose, to the definitions of firearms and ammunition, to provisions for a private right of action.
Despite PR Stunts, ALEC Bills Continue to Spread
In the wake of controversy over its role in promoting NRA-sponsored "Stand Your Ground" laws similar to the one initially cited to protect Trayvon Martin's killer from arrest, ALEC announced it was disbanding the Public Safety and Elections Task Force in April 2012.
Despite this PR maneuver, at ALEC's annual meeting at Salt Lake City in summer 2012, the NRA had the biggest booth in ALEC's convention hall and continued to host its annual shooting event for ALEC legislators and lobbyists, with guns, ammo, and barbecue provided. The July 2012 event was co-sponsored by Browning Arms Company, whose foreign parent company is one of the world's largest sellers of machine guns, as noted by CMD in its coverage of ALEC's convention.
Last week, ALEC pulled another PR stunt to try to repair its image. It is trying to disavow bills it has promoted for years -- like the "Stand Your Ground" (also known as the Castle Doctrine bill or the Shoot First law) and the Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act -- and for the first time in its forty year history, is posting some of its model bills on its website. ALEC's new spokesperson Bill Meierling has claimed that "If it is not on our website, it is not our policy."
Despite what ALEC says publicly, ALEC bills like the Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act continue to spread across the country, without regard for whether ALEC has chosen to post the legislation on its website. And the Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act and hundreds of other ALEC bills, such as Stand Your Ground and Voter ID, remain on the books in states across the country, and continue to adversely affect the lives of numerous Americans. Meanwhile, ALEC has taken no apparent steps to repeal ill-conceived laws that were adopted at its behest or to oppose bills like Nevada's bill to thwart any future efforts to keep machine guns off the Las Vegas strip. ALEC zombie legislation it embraced for years, if not decades, continues to live on unchanged and unchallenged by ALEC's effort to whitewash its record.
The Center for Media and Democracy's Executive Director, Lisa Graves, contributed to this report. She formerly served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Policy at the U.S. Department of Justice, where she handled gun violence prevention policy, among other issues.