Trending Topics

Nev. sheriffs back lawsuit to block ‘red flag’ law

At least three sheriffs have publicly shown their support, said they believe the law, which came into effect this month, is unconstitutional

John Sadler
Las Vegas Sun

CARSON CITY — A group seeking to block Nevada’s red flag gun law has received the backing of several rural Nevada sheriffs and is in talks with others, said Nevadans Citizen Action Network cofounder Julie Hereford, who argues the law tramples due process and Second Amendment rights.

So far, Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Allen, Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen and Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts, who vowed to fight the law until there is “no fight left in (him),” are individually backing the lawsuit. No counties have signed onto the lawsuit.

A spokesman for Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo declined to comment.

The red flag law, which took effect this month, allows police, family or household members to petition a judge to confiscate the guns of people deemed a threat to themselves or others. It was passed at the 2019 Nevada Legislature.

In a posting on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page, Watts criticized Gov. Steve Sisolak, who called the law a memorial to the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas Strip massacre, as a “misguided” politician politicizing tragedy to pass gun control laws.

“As the duly elected sheriff of Eureka County, Nevada it is my duty and responsibility to stand with my citizens and against you and unconstitutional government overreach,” Watts wrote.

State Attorney General Aaron Ford’s office issued a statement warning that any harm resulting from failing to enforce the law could leave local governments and agencies open to civil liability.

“Laws are presumed to be constitutional, and law enforcement agencies are by definition charged with executing and enforcing the laws of our state,” the statement said. “We have a sworn duty to do so until a court instructs us otherwise. If an agency fails to enforce these laws and that results in harm or death, that agency and its agents may be subject to civil liability.”

The lawsuit seeking an injunction cites a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in September that requires jury trials for people accused of misdemeanor domestic violence because a conviction could lead to confiscation of personally owned firearms.

Justices unanimously ruled that a jury should decide serious penalties that limit state and U.S. constitutional rights to own a gun.

Nevada’s red flag law leaves it up to a judge — not a jury — to determine if a person’s guns should be taken away.

“This is really just unconstitutional. It’s taking away numerous rights under the Bill of Rights, not just the Second Amendment,” said Hereford, whose Henderson-based group has taken traditionally Republican stances on issues including the Affordable Care Act, school choice and voter ID laws.

“We tackle other issues as well, but right now this one is on the forefront,” she said.

Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Allen was the first sheriff to sign onto the lawsuit.

In a statement released by NevadansCAN, he said he decided to back the litigation after listening to citizens and community concerns, though he said he would “respect the court’s decision at the end of the day.”

“I just think that this law needs to be overturned, as a whole law,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Carson City, but no hearing date has been set.