Nevada Joint Committee Passes Divisive MGM-Backed Bill Banning Guns in Casinos

  • Senators passed the controversial emergency bill on May 22 on a 4-3 party-line vote
  • Bill does away with verbally warning suspected firearm carriers before calling police
  • A Democratic Assemblywoman feared the bill would discriminate against minorities
  • Casino-vicinity-violence in Nevada has been rising since the pandemic broke out in 2020
Person holding gun on table with cards, chips, and cash
In a joint meeting of Assembly and Senate judiciary committees on Saturday, Nevada lawmakers passed a controversial bill which bans guns in casinos. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Senate Bill 452 caused unusual divisions

At a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate committees on judiciary, Nevada lawmakers passed a divisive MGM Resorts International-backed bill that bans guns in casinos The revived Senate Bill 452 drew fire on Saturday from unusual bedfellows, including Democrats, Republicans, police unions, gun rights advocates, and criminal justice reform groups.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada took to Twitter to share its belief that the bill is “deadly”:

Senators, however, passed the controversial emergency bill on May 22 on a 4-3 party-line vote. According the Associated Press, the measure “makes it up to a gross misdemeanor to bring guns into certain resorts and casinos” where they are banned.

Senate Bill 452 “is designed to reduce rising violent crimes that have become prevalent in the Las Vegas resort corridor during the pandemic,” the bill’s sponsor, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said on Saturday.

According to the Associated Press, the existing law requires resort security to tell armed individuals that carrying guns is prohibited on the premises. Only then, if said individuals refuse to leave, can security call local law enforcement on them for trespassing. The controversial policy instead does away with the verbal warning and allows resort security to directly call police on suspected ban violators.

Reactions poles apart

Saturday’s amendment to the bill drew reactions that were poles apart during the nearly five-hour live-streamed meeting.

Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas) picked up on the potential for the bill to discriminate against minorities: “We are going to have situations where Black folks and brown folks are going to be the ones who are going to be not asked to leave, but who are going to be the ones that the police are called on.”

police interaction with Black and brown people has great potential “to go sideways”

Summers-Armstrong added police interaction with Black and brown people has great potential “to go sideways.”

According to the Nevada Independent, Senator Melanie Scheible, (D-Las Vegas) said it “made sense to enforce firearms bans in large casinos similar to how they are enforced in schools and public libraries given their importance to Nevada and its economy.”

Interest groups such as MGM Resorts and the Culinary Union Local 226, testified in approval of the proposal, the AP news report said. Representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department testified as neutral. Police reform groups ACLU and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada testified against the gun policy, along with the National Rifle Association and police unions, which said the proposal could “create unnecessary and dangerous confrontations between people and law enforcement.”

The measure is now state Assembly-bound, where a similar proposal faltered after the chamber’s Democrats couldn’t muster up enough support for it. The scheduled adjournment for the Nevada Legislature is May 31.

Nevada casino-vicinity-violence a problem

Whatever route the measure takes, one thing is very clear. Casino-vicinity violence in Nevada is on an upward trend since the pandemic broke out.

In February 2021, two men needed urgent medical treatment after getting knifed in the parking garage of Nugget Casino in Sparks. In January of this year, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) officers found a gunshot victim in the parking area of the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Sin City. Late 2020 was also bloody in Las Vegas with a suspected drug-deal-gone-south gunfight in the car park of the Tropicana Las Vegas, and a security detail shooting dead a homeless gunman in the valet area of South Point Hotel Casino & Spa on Las Vegas Boulevard.

In response to the spike, the LVMPD upped its efforts to crack down on violent crime towards the end of 2020, launching Operation Persistent Pressure. Police arrested a total of 1,229 people and confiscated 64 guns on the Strip over the three-month operation.