Meet an anti-gun safety Senate candidate: Adam Laxalt

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Nevada Republican Senate candidate Adam Laxalt has received an A+ rating — and a lot of money — from the National Rifle Association.

Nevada Republican Senate nominee Adam Laxalt claims on his campaign website to have "stood tall in support of the second amendment at every turn." In practice, this has meant he has opposed even the most popular and modest measures aimed at curbing gun violence.

Laxalt, a former state attorney general and a partner at a conservative law firm, is challenging incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in November. While he has attempted to downplay his anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ views, he has made no attempt to hide his opposition to virtually all gun safety legislation.

On June 23, the Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a New York limit on the concealed carry of handguns in the state. In its 6-3 ruling, the court announced it would henceforth approach all gun safety laws with the presumption that most of them are unconstitutional, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority that "the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this Nation's historical tradition of firearm regulation."

In a Twitter thread, Laxalt celebrated the ruling as "a tremendous victory for the constitutional rights of Americans" and criticized Congress for passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, a compromise bill to keep guns out of the hands of convicted domestic abusers, fund states' implementation of red flag laws to temporarily disarm people judged to be a threat to themselves or others, and enhance background checks for would-be gun purchasers under the age of 21.

Laxalt wrote, "Today, as politicians in Washington are voting to impose additional restrictions on our constitutional rights, I am grateful that the Supreme Court upheld fundamental principles of our country. As President Reagan remarked, 'Those who seek to inflict harm are not fazed by gun control laws.'"

Cortez Masto voted for the gun compromise. "Throughout my Senate career, I've stood up for commonsense measures to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings like the one at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in my hometown of Las Vegas," she said in a press release. "This bipartisan bill makes real progress to reduce violence and keep our communities safe." She also noted her support for expanded background checks and limits on gun magazine capacity.

Laxalt's campaign did not respond to an inquiry about his positions on gun legislation, but he has consistently sided with the gun lobby and against positions supported by a majority of Americans.

Backed by the National Rifle Association and its money

Laxalt's campaign site features an endorsement from the National Rifle Association. In May, he told the right-wing site Breitbart, "I am honored to once again earn the endorsement of the National Rifle Association and to receive an A+ rating for my record of supporting our Second Amendment liberties. The NRA's members have been on the front lines protecting our Constitutional rights and I am proud to stand with them."

The organization, which opposes gun regulations and advocates for people to arm themselves to stop any "bad guy with a gun," also endorsed Laxalt's failed 2018 gubernatorial bid. Its campaign arm has given $4,950 to his Senate committee and $11,000 to his previous campaigns.

Laxalt also notes that he has been endorsed by the Gun Owners of America, a group described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "as a more radical alternative to the National Rifle Association" whose executive director, Larry Pratt, has "ties to the militia movement, white supremacist organizations, and Christian theocrats."

"Every American is afforded the right to defend him or herself," Laxalt tweeted on Nov. 22. "The Second Amendment tells us that this right is NOT given to us by the government, but it is a God-given right. That's why I'm proud to have the support of organizations like @GunOwners!"

Opposed new gun laws after the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting

On Oct. 1, 2017, a gunman killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival. Laxalt, then the Nevada attorney general, opposed any new legislation to prevent similar events, telling the Las Vegas Review-Journal in February 2018, "I think it's unfortunate that these type of incidents are used politically every time. This one is yet another example where there is no law, there is no background check law, that would have prevented this particular incident. This killer went through a background check."

Failed to enforce a voter-backed universal background check law

In August 2017, Nevada voters approved a ballot initiative to require a background check for nearly all gun sales in the state — to close a loophole in federal law — over the strong objections of the NRA and Laxalt. His campaign site notes that Laxalt "co-chaired the state's No on 1 campaign in 2016, which sought to block a Bloomberg-proposed law banning the safe and already regulated third party transfer of firearms."

Laxalt issued an opinion concluding that because the FBI, which he said was responsible for carrying out background checks, had instead stated that they were the responsibility of the state, the law could not be enforced, while opponents called on him to enforce it.

The Gun Owners of America's July 2017 endorsement of his gubernatorial candidacy called Laxalt a "pro-gun, pro-Constitution hero": "Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) issued an opinion that if the FBI won't conduct the Instant Checks requisite to any private gun sale in Nevada, then one can't require those Instant Checks for those private sales. Adam Laxalt effectively nullified 'Question 1' and that means New York Leftist Michael Bloomberg wasted $20 million trying to pass gun control in Nevada."

After Laxalt lost the 2018 gubernatorial election to Democrat Steve Sisolak, the new governor signed a law implementing the background check expansion in February 2019.

Defended armor-piercing bullets

In 2015, President Barack Obama's administration attempted to institute a ban on a type of armor-piercing bullet in order to protect law enforcement officers. Laxalt was one of 23 state attorneys general to sign a letter opposing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives' proposed regulation.

"We, as much as anyone, want to do the utmost to ensure that our brave men and women that serve in law enforcement are safe," they wrote. "The proposed ATF ban on M855 5.56 ammunition, however, does not advance that goal. Instead, it threatens Second Amendment freedoms and deprives shooting sports enthusiasts of a popular cartridge for a popular rifle."

The proposed ban has not been implemented.

Tried to roll back state gun laws

As of April 2022, 25 U.S. states did not require individuals to obtain a permit in order to carry concealed firearms in public. Laxalt has pushed reciprocity laws to force all states to allow visitors from those that don't require permits to carry concealed weapons, no matter what their own laws say.

In a Dec. 9, 2021, opinion piece published in the Washington Examiner, Laxalt wrote, "As Nevada's attorney general, I joined many of my counterparts in supporting national concealed-carry reciprocity legislation."

In December 2018, Laxalt issued an opinion in which he said that state employees with concealed weapons permits should be free to bring their weapons to work.

Double flip-flop on 'red flag' laws

In April 2017, speaking to the National Rifle Association's Leadership Forum in Atlanta, Laxalt mischaracterized the "red flag" law, a type of restriction that allows the authorities to remove weapons from individuals judged to post a threat to themselves or others, that the Nevada Legislature was trying to pass:

Now just a few days ago, our Democrat-majority Senate passed a bill that you really can only see in science fiction. How many people remember 'The Minority Report,' with Tom Cruise? There was a concept called 'pre-crime.' So this bill starts with saying by the possession and ownership of a gun makes you high-risk, if you can believe that. It goes on to say the government can take your Second Amendment right based merely on suspicion or a threat. That is where our state is headed. We expect our governor will veto that bill, as bad as it is, but it's terrifying to think that Nevada is only a veto away now from this kind of terrible gun law being passed in our state.

In June 2018, Laxalt released a 32-page school safety plan that called on the legislature to "study the impacts of red flag laws in other states, and possibly consider enacting similar laws in Nevada as early as the 2019 legislative session."

By 2019, he had flipped again, and his Morning in Nevada political action committee denounced the legislature's red flag proposal as a "reckless bill."

Now, as a Senate candidate, he continues to highlight his opposition to extreme risk safety legislation. "Adam worked collaboratively with legislators, raising money through a PAC to message against red flag laws in Nevada," his campaign site says.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.