LAS VEGAS — With the Legislature set to begin in a little more than two weeks, and with debate raging nationally about gun control, an invitation-only event for Nevada lawmakers hosted by the National Rifle Association at a Las Vegas shooting range drew criticism Friday from a liberal advocacy group.“The timing of this is suspect,” ProgressNow Nevada chief Brian Fadie said of the Saturday event the NRA is casting as an opportunity for lawmakers to learn about guns, gun rights and gun laws. Fadie noted that the event comes a little more than a month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school, a day after a big weapons industry trade show ends in Las Vegas, and the same day that some gun rights proponents have dubbed Gun Appreciation Day in a call for demonstrations outside gun stores.“For them to have a closed-door, closed-to-the-public, closed-to-the-media lobbying session with our legislators is disturbing,” Fadie said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test.”Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said she invited all 63 of Nevada’s Senate and Assembly lawmakers to what she called the NRA “tutorial.” She said she thinks more than half will attend but declined to identify them.“I’m asking my peers to join me since we’ll be voting on many firearm laws this session,” said Fiore, a Republican from Las Vegas who is proposing a bill to allow licensed gun holders to carry concealed weapons on school campuses. She blamed the media, in the aftermath of the Dec. 14 shooting at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Conn., for casting the issue in partisan terms.“There are more citizens who are for the Second Amendment than are not,” she said. “Firearms are not the cause of the atrocities that are taking place. This is about government trying to get our firearms and unfortunately using tragedies like Sandy Hook to prove their point.”The NRA event is being held at Battlefield Vegas, just east of the Las Vegas Strip. A store employee, John Howell, said that in addition to the store and a memorabilia display, the facility lets customers rent from more than 350 machine guns and fire them on an 11-lane shooting range.Daniel Reid, the Nevada state lobbyist for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said by email that he was unavailable for comment Friday. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this week that the plan was to talk with legislators about weapons and answer their questions. He didn’t say how many lawmakers were committed to attend.Fadie said members of his organization planned to note who shows up. Some northern Nevada lawmakers said they wouldn’t travel to Las Vegas for the event.“It’s always good for legislators to broaden their knowledge base,” said state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden. He called himself a firm believer in a person’s right to lawfully possess firearms.Democratic state Sen. Tick Segerblom, of Carson City, said he had no plans to go to the NRA event.“You can’t blame them for education, but I have no interest in learning to shoot a gun,” Segerblom said. A lawyer and former Assembly member, Segerblom now chairs the state Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he will introduce bills during the 120-day legislative session to prohibit the sale of assault weapons and restrict the size of ammunition magazines to fewer than 10 bullets. He said he also wants to prohibit the sale of armor-piercing bullets and require background checks for gun sales in all instances, including gun shows.Segerblom called public discussion about gun rights, gun violence and gun control a positive step.“In the 33 years I’ve been active in Nevada politics, you just couldn’t talk about gun control,” he said. “Nevada was a hunter state. It was just assumed that the NRA was untouchable.”
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