© 2024 Boise State Public Radio
NPR in Idaho
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KBSU 90.3 and KBSX 91.5 are operating at significantly reduced power at various times for the next several days as workers for another broadcaster are on the tower. Power is reduced for their safety.
A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Democratic lawmakers hammer Lombardo over ghost gun undercount

Harris and Jauregui are outdoors, in business casual attire, looking into the distance with solemn expressions.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Democratic Sen. Dallas Harris (left) and Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui at a press conference denouncing the governor’s vetoes of their legislation to limit firearm access, in Carson City, Nev., on May 17, 2023.

During his campaign for governor, then-sheriff Joe Lombardo downplayed the number of ghost guns recovered by police. Now, Democrats are planning a third attempt to ban the untraceable weapons.

More than a year before he was elected governor, Joe Lombardo told a group of pro-gun voters that over the previous 12 months, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department had encountered just six ghost guns.

“It’s not a big issue,” he said.

But according to an investigation of police records by KUNR and APM Reports, officers had recovered at least 252 of the firearms, which are often sold in kits without serial numbers. At the time, Lombardo was still serving as the department’s sheriff.

Responding to Lombardo’s inaccurate claim, Las Vegas Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui didn’t mince words.

“He chose the gun lobby over the safety of Nevadans. He chose the gun lobby over Nevada lives,” she said.

Jauregui, a Democrat, has sponsored two ghost gun bans in the legislature. Lawmakers approved both, but the first was overturned in court. Last year, after Lombardo was elected governor, he vetoed the second ban.

But Jauregui said she’s ready to try again.

“My work around gun violence prevention isn’t done, because I know firsthand what it’s like to experience gun violence.”

Jauregui is a survivor of the Route 91 Harvest shooting in October 2017 – the deadliest such attack in modern U.S. history. She said that experience motivates her to pursue gun violence reforms.

Jauregui said she would like to introduce the ghost gun ban before the 2025 session, but the legislative schedule makes that impossible.

Neither Gov. Lombardo nor multiple Republican lawmakers responded to interview requests for this story.

Last year, Democrats needed just one more vote to overturn Lombardo’s ghost gun veto.

Democratic State Senator Melanie Scheible, who cosponsored one of the ghost gun bans, said if her party were to win a supermajority in this year’s election, it would allow them to address gun violence.

“The investigation only reaffirmed for me the need to take action in the next legislative session to prevent more unnecessary gun violence and gun deaths,” she said.

Scheible, who worked as a prosecutor in Las Vegas until 2022, said the risk posed by ghost guns is well understood in her field.

“When I talk to other attorneys about gun cases, there is a common understanding and expectation that when minors are committing acts of violence – or any prohibited acts with a firearm – that firearm is going to be a ghost gun.”

Bert is KUNR’s senior correspondent. He covers stories that resonate across Nevada and the region, with a focus on environment, political extremism and Indigenous communities.

You make stories like this possible.

The biggest portion of Boise State Public Radio's funding comes from readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

Your donation today helps make our local reporting free for our entire community.