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A bill, back from the dead, could create gun-free zones at large casinos in Nevada

Las Vegas Strip scenic shot
Posted at 5:36 AM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 13:41:28-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — No guns in casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

With a few exemptions, it would be possible if a bill that was once dead in the Nevada Legislature, SB 452, makes it through fierce opposition after being revived by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in the final days of the 120 day session.

Major portions of the bill were originally removed from an Assembly Bill designed to ban ghost guns which has passed the Legislature.

"Private properties already have the ability to prohibit firearms on their premises," she said when reintroducing the bill in a joint committee session with the Assembly.

Cannizzaro said the bill would only provide an enforcement mechanism to casino security by allowing them to call the police and have a person charged with a crime if a person has a gun on property and refuses to leave or surrender the weapon following a verbal warning.

Casino operators would need to opt-in to become a gun-free zone and post signage warning patrons at all entrances.

SB 452 provides exemptions allowing security, active-duty police officers, people who recently purchased a gun at a trade show, and people specially designated by casino operators to carry a firearm on property.

MGM Resorts has been behind the bill, and Senior Vice President Ayesha Molino said it would allow casinos to avoid violence before it erupts.

"As the state's largest employer, we have a responsibility to keep our employees, our guests, and our customers safe, and ultimately that's what this is all about," she said.

The bill has attracted odd bedfellows in opposition.

Republicans, Democrats, gun rights advocates, police unions, and civil rights advocates joined forces in testifying against the bill.

Assemblywoman Shondra Summers expressed concern that the bill would allow casino security to target people of color for random weapon searches.

"I am very concerned about what I believe this leads to which is stop and frisk," Summers said.

The American Civil Liberties Union joined Summers in her concern, saying the increased interaction with police on the strip involving weapons could lead to disastrous results.

"This simply isn't a bad bill that has good intentions," said Athar Haseebullah, ACLU Nevada director. "This is a potentially deadly bill with good intentions."

Despite the wide-ranging opposition, Senate Judiciary Chair Melanie Scheible called for a vote and ended debate with a nod to the hospitality industry.

"The tourism economy is the lifeblood of our Nevada economy," she said. "And so we should be paying special attention to the resorts and the casinos and the hotels."

The bill was advanced by a razor thin margin, but supporters will need to work quickly if they want to get it to Gov. Steve Sisolak's desk.

The session ends on June 1.