LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada’s new attorney general wants to find a way to implement a stalled, voter-approved gun background check law when he takes office early next year after his predecessor said the measure couldn’t be enforced.
Democrat Aaron Ford, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he’d also be supportive of other gun-safety measures that come out of the state’s Democratically controlled Legislature. Gun safety is a prominent topic in the state where a gunman opened fire last year on an outdoor music festival, killing 58.
Ford, a 46-year-old attorney and outgoing state Senate majority leader, noted Friday was the sixth anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
“As we honor those 20 kids and six educators who lost their lives, we need to be doing more than thinking and praying about them,” Ford said. “We need to be working toward commonsense gun safety measures.”
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He said he also wants to tackle issues like student loan debt, sexual harassment and discrimination, and criminal justice reform — an issue he focused on during his six-year tenure in the Senate — along with protecting Nevada’s legal marijuana industry and reassessing its legal positions on issues like the Affordable Care Act.
Here’s a closer look at some of Ford’s positions:
Nevada’s outgoing Republican attorney general, Adam Laxalt, and governor, Brian Sandoval, both opposed the firearm background check law, designed to close a legal loophole where private, unlicensed sellers don’t have to conduct background screenings.
Though voters narrowly approved the law in 2016, Sandoval and Laxalt said it could not be implemented because it required the FBI to enforce the law and said state screenings were more thorough.
Ford said he’ll still try to work with the FBI to get the law enforced and, if needed, he’ll work with the Legislature and incoming Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak to get the law changed.
“I begin from a position of ‘yes’ and trying to implement the will of the people,” Ford said.
Ford said he doesn’t see a need at this point for additional regulation of the state’s recreational marijuana industry, which began selling legal pot on July 1, 2017. But the Democrat said he would defend the industry against a crackdown by the federal government.
The Trump administration has sent mixed messages on the issue, with President Donald Trump saying he would support easing a federal prohibition on marijuana while his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions promoted more aggressive enforcement. Ford said he doesn’t see any immediate challenge from the federal government on the horizon.
STATE LEGAL BATTLES
Republican and Democratic attorneys general often band together to challenge federal rules passed by the opposing political party and will separately file legal briefs in out-of-state court battles to assert their state’s positions, including on hot-button issues.
Under Laxalt, Nevada’s court briefs have included positions supporting out-of-state abortion restrictions and a Trump administration challenge to a California “sanctuary state” immigration law.
With the political changeover in the Nevada attorney general’s office, Ford said he would be re-assessing the state’s positions in those out-of-state cases.
“To be sure, I have a different position on, for example, protection of the ACA than does the current attorney general,” he said. “But I am going to have to talk to our governor to figure out how we want to proceed as a state.”
Nevada is in the midst of a prolonged legal fight over the execution of a convicted killer as drug manufacturers are fighting to keep their products from being used in the lethal injection.
It’s a problem other states have grappled with. Some have adopted alternative means of execution or kept the source of their lethal injection drugs confidential.
Ford said he opposes the death penalty but will enforce the state’s capital punishment law. He declined to say he would handle the ongoing battles with the drug makers, noting he needs to review the cases thoroughly once he’s in office.
Associated Press writer Ken Ritter contributed to this report.