Senate examines gun policy
March 17, 2013
The brother of a taxicab driver killed last month in a fiery shootout and crash on the Las Vegas Strip is speaking out against gun violence.
Tehran Boldon urged members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
"Assault weapons have no place on our streets, and high capacity magazines have no place in our country," Boldon told the committee. "Law enforcement, military — that's one thing. But civilians don't need those."
His brother, Michael Boldon, was one of three people killed Feb. 21 when the driver of a Maserati was gunned down and his car careened into other vehicles before erupting in a fireball. Gun violence has dominated headlines across the country and state legislatures are taking a hard look at their gun policies.
The crash on the Strip came less than a year and a half after Eduardo Sencion killed four people and then himself at a Carson City IHOP restaurant in 2011. Police still don't know what motivated Sencion to unload 90 rounds from a semi-automatic rifle in less than 90 seconds that September day.
"He took that with him to the grave," Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong told lawmakers Friday.
Furlong added that the rifle Sencion used was modified to be fully automatic —meaning it was illegal under Nevada law — but that it was not an assault rifle.
Aside from the modified rifle, Sencion didn't violate any laws owning the weapons, Furlong said. Sencion was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic.
The possibility of another shooting like IHOP, or the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, inspired Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, to draft a bill protecting Nevadans from becoming the next victims.
"Sandy Hook changed me, as it did many others. I am a father first, and it made my stomach turn to think a mentally ill person could unleash so much carnage with a gun," Jones said while presenting a gun control bill Thursday.
Senate Bill 221, heard by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, mandates universal background checks for all gun transactions in Nevada and tightens gun control laws for those suffering from mental illness.
The bill requires courts to transmit findings of mental defect to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System within five business days to ensure mentally ill persons cannot purchase a gun after a court ruling, but before their information is added to the registry.
"You can't effectively keep guns out of hands of those dangerous to others without background checks on all sales," Jones said.
Furlong said Sencion made many of his gun and ammunition magazine purchases at gun shows and from private persons, although he also bought weapons from stores.
"Eduardo was a gun buff from early on. In South Lake, did his senior project on gun safety. He had lots of access as entertainment. He knew what safety measures to employ," Furlong said.
Nevada is one of four states that don't require doctors to report to law enforcement if a mentally ill patient makes a threat to themselves or others, so this law mandates such reporting, he added.
The bill requires background checks on all "transfers" of firearms between individuals — a point several lawmakers and witnesses contested Thursday. But Jones said the language was intended to keep family members from giving guns to mentally ill relatives.
Opponents say it would bar relatives from giving gifts or even sharing guns at a shooting range.
Furlong said law enforcement and mental health providers need to be in constant contact and have a "very, very close relationship." Barriers to that close relationship, such as the federal prohibition on healthcare providers sharing medical information, need to be removed, he said.
"When it comes to public safety, we shouldn't have threat of being sued," he said.
Current law disallows those involuntarily admitted to a mental institution by a court from purchasing a firearm. Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, introduced another bill Friday that prohibits people from purchasing firearms or ammunition if psychiatrists have requested that the courts place that person in a mental institution.
After three years, those persons would be able to request to have their gun-owning rights reinstated.
Greg Ross of Reno told committee members Friday that restricting legal gun models, magazine size and bullet type will only put citizens in more danger.
"Everyone has a right to protect themselves," he said, "not just the police."