Update 2/8/23: Per the PIO, DPS (state police) did not request the bill and just learned about it.
Far-left anti-gun Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui has proposed AB 117, which could criminalize open carry protests as domestic terrorism. The bill focuses on expanding the ability of the Nevada Department of Public Safety to investigate domestic terror activity, but would add a number of criminal charges to the definition of "domestic terrorism." This include criminal anarchy (NRS 203.115) and armed association (NRS 203.080), and unlawful parade with arms (NRS 412.604).
On the surface, it all might seem well and good but the implications could be bad. A look at the above included statutes shows that they were all passed in 1967 as a reaction to the actions of the Black Panthers. In the 1960s, the Black Panthers were known for openly carrying firearms in California cities while they engaged in protests, school walkouts, and what amounted to armed intimidation of police. Their activities were quite similar to the armed leftist protests and leftist armed guards outside drag shows for children we are seeing today, except far more menacing.
The Panthers' activities culminated in the May 2, 1967 armed invasion of the California State Capitol. While entirely legal, at the time, this guaranteed that Assemblyman Don Mulford's bill to ban loaded open carry passed, with amendments that included the state capitol. Bills prohibiting activities similar to what the Panthers were doing were pending in other states, including Nevada and Washington.
Nevada was more restrained than California, but the above mentioned bills formed the response. Up until the present, these laws haven't been an issue. Now, for reasons that still need researched, they have been added to a domestic terrorism bill. Whatever the source of this law is (probably from law enforcement), in today's polarized and ideologically discriminatory environment, expansion of "domestic terrorism" that could potentially criminalize constitutionally protected behavior is concerning.
NRS 412.604 Unlawful drill or parade with arms by voluntary company or voluntary organization without license; drill or parade by students with consent of Governor; penalty.
NRS 203.080 Armed association.
Interestingly, the 1967 changes (412) removed the “militia” of the state (which is the general citizenry) were exempted, but then the more specific “National Guard” was substituted. 1967 changes (080) made it the “state” militia. I’m guessing the intellectual heavyweights (sarcasm) in Carson City thought this would solve the problem of Panthers’ calling themselves the unorganized militia in order to get around this law.
Frankly, the Second Amendment guarantees the right of the militia to the people, not the government under the state or National Guard. The individuals have always constituted the militia or the fyrd independent of the state. The state just organized them in times of war. If people want to form defensive associations, they should be allowed to as long as they aren’t advocating or attempting to commit violence.
The question arises whether or not these statutes ban armed protests and collective self-defense in riots. Before 2020, I would have argued “of course not” but today I must say “only if the state wants.” Ostensibly, these laws would have to be supported by behavior or other factors. Calling a group a “militia” that wants to overthrow the government by force, sure. A group of dudes standing on the street with guns waving placards? Probably not.
Enforceability is another question. I’m not aware that anyone has ever been arrested for a violation of these laws, and these laws in their original forms pre-date 1967. What constitutes a “military company?” I doubt that under a multitude of case law and Supreme Court cases, including Bruen, that these laws would be enforceable against peaceable or self-defense open carry. Nonetheless, if a prosecutor has the will, they can press charges and it would be up to the defendant to win the case or the appeal.
Government interpretation of a nebulous statute in politically fraught times is troublesome. The real issue to me is the state suddenly deciding that people who are protecting their neighborhood or businesses against riots are deemed “terrorists.” Show up to a protest against an “assault weapons” ban with an AR-15? You’re now a “terrorist.” Just wearing a plate carrier and carrying a firearm does not make one a terrorist, a military company, or anything bad. It’s actions and intent.
However, we’ve seen too many people on the left with anti-gun bents calling anyone who engages in these behaviors a terrorist and even wishing/calling for legal or physical harm to be done to them. I do not trust a political party that seems to bless those who carry guns to be “security” for drag queen shows and demonize those that defend themselves during riots.
First of all, open carry is legal and constitutionally protected. This bill doesn't affect that. What it may show is an attitude by elements of the state to weaponize the existing statutes and domestic terrorism measures to criminalize things like peaceful, armed protests or even collective self-defense against riots.
If a Republican governor in a red state proposed these laws or this bill today as a reaction against the leftist militias organizing to stand armed guard outside drag time story hour or drag shows for kids, the governor might be cheered on by the right. Radicals who believe that force is permissible to achieve ideological goals over opponents of divergent viewpoints, and who threaten or follow through with that violence, are terrorists. The implication is that "if you interfere with us, we will kill you." In the 1960s, the Black Panthers were terrorists, no matter what the apologists might say. They were the Antifa of their time in stark contrast to a peaceful civil rights activist like Martin Luther King. Panthers were intimidating the police and public with the implication that the weapons would be used.
Say what you will about open carriers advocating for the right to carry firearms openly, but there was never any implication that these weapons would be turned on police. Even openly carried long guns and "assault weapons" that the politicians are trying to ban that are carried at more political protests are brought as symbolic items; a physical expression of speech. Open carry protests are not about intimidation but speech and are protected by the First Amendment. Up to a point, even some of today's leftists' actions could be legally justified as speech.
There is also the issue of collective self-defense against riots and unrest. In 2020, we saw neighborhoods across the country banding together to protect themselves. Should a group of neighbors who turn out on their street armed during a riot to keep their homes or businesses from being looted be prosecuted for a criminal act? These laws, and this bill, give further impetus to that.
The problem with banning politically undesirable persons from “armed association” is that it criminalizes legitimate behavior and the law can be wielded as a blunt instrument against the disfavored party du jour. Based on former Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak’s opinion of armed protests in 2020, I have to say that conservatives, libertarians, and freedom lovers are disfavored at the moment (not statists and leftists).
The real danger in these bills is that those of conservative, independent, or frankly center-left values who do not agree with the far-left may be politically prosecuted. Kyle Rittenhouse's murder charges is an example of political persecution for obvious self-defense. The danger in these laws is disparate enforcement. Only a fool would argue that those to the center-right of the political spectrum are not facing marginalization. Furthermore, that this bill is sponsored by the notoriously anti-gun Democrat Sandra Jauregui should give serious pause.
So we need to know: where this bill comes from? DPS? Metro? Sandra's own idea?
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West