As the rough winds pounded the UNLV campus, and as swarms of students and faculty rushed by to make their next class, State Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford (D-Spring Valley) met with UNLV student leaders earlier today to talk about what Nevada can do to stop gun violence. They were then joined by Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D), who implored Nevada voters to elect a new Governor and new Attorney General who will enforce the state laws that are already on the books, and fight for new laws to prevent the kinds of tragedies that have become far too commonplace in Nevada and across the nation.
How they got here
Though Nevada and the nation were rocked by the 1 October Shooting on the Las Vegas Strip, no laws changed. At first, it seemed like this could push Congress to do something about gun violence. But within weeks, our horrific tragedy became yet another mass shooting incident that attracted plenty of “thoughts and prayers”, but no sustained appetite to change any gun laws.
But when the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were attacked on their campus, they vowed #NeverAgain, and they took to the streets to “March for Our Lives”. Since then, we’ve seen students take the lead and put our nation’s elected leaders on notice. At UNLV today, State Senator Aaron Ford and Washington Governor Jay Inslee came to reassure students that they’re listening to what students have to say.
— Andrew Davey (@atdleft) April 19, 2018
“The Attorney General’s job is to implement, not impede, the will of the people.”
– State Senator Aaron Ford
Senator Aaron Ford, who’s running for Attorney General this year, kicked off the program by contrasting his record with that of current Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt (R): “Like Donald Trump, Adam Laxalt is full of excuses about why he won’t work to implement the will of the people and find a path forward. That’s why it’s time for a change in the Attorney General’s office.”
After the program, I asked Ford why Laxalt is wrong in refusing to implement Question 1, the ballot initiative to expand background checks that voters narrowly approved in 2016. For Ford, Laxalt’s line of argument is just a lame excuse: “The Attorney General’s job is to implement, not impede, the will of the people. It came as no surprise to Nevadans that he came out against enforcing [Question 1] after he appeared in commercials opposing it.”
According to Ford, “I think there are options that have not been explored,” possibly alluding to Question 1 supporters’ suggestion that the state change its “point of contact” policy to resolve the hang-up with the FBI that Laxalt has claimed as reason why the background check law can’t be enforced. Ford continued, “I will work with anyone, the Legislature, the Governor’s office, the FBI, other law enforcement agencies, who are interested in implementing the will of the people. That’s how it begins.”
“Excuses will not protect our children. We need action.”
– Washington Governor Jay Inslee
When it was his turn to speak, Governor Jay Inslee (who also chairs the Democratic Governors Association) did not hold back in condemning the kind of obstruction that’s come to define both Congress and the State of Nevada when it comes to gun violence prevention: “We need governors who want more common sense gun policy, not less.”
Inslee contrasted the federal stalemate with recent actions taken in his state to strengthen gun safety standards, such as closing background check loopholes, banning bump stocks, and banning the sale of guns to domestic violence offenders. Yet even in Washington State, legislators had trouble passing more ambitious bills to restrict magazine capacity and impose heightened background checks on assault weapon purchases.
Inslee alluded to this when he stated his desire for Washington’s Legislature to get back to work on these matters. He also urged Nevada’s voters to reject candidates who refuse to advance gun safety legislation in this state: “We reject this Republican, [Adam] Laxalt, who is just making excuses for the NRA. Excuses will not protect our children. We need action.”
“This is one of the movements that will shape America’s future.”
– Karl Catarata, UNLV student
UNLV student Karl Catarata has quickly become a leader in the student-driven gun violence prevention movement here in Nevada. During today’s event, Catarata made clear what Nevada students demand: “To me, as a young adult, as a young voter, a student, a Nevadan, and as a survivor of gun violence, it just isn’t right. [… M]orally, I think we really have to continue our fight against gun violence, to make sure it isn’t apart of the fabric of this country.”
After the program, Catarata spoke with me about where the student-led gun violence prevention movement is heading next. He described how they’re still trying to convince U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R) to hold a town hall with them and allow Nevadans to speak with him about how Congress can help in making communities safer. He also reminded me of tomorrow’s student walkout day of action, and he clued me in on how student activists plan to keep the issue of gun violence front and center during this election cycle (and beyond).
During our conversation, Catarata urged his fellow young activists to keep the faith: “It’s about hard work. We’re the next voting bloc.” As we’ve already seen, they’re already making quite the mark on American politics and public policy. As Catarata put it, “This is one of the movements that will shape America’s future.”
Hang tight, as we’ll have more in the coming days on this weekend’s walkouts, and how this movement could make major waves here in Nevada this fall.