Hundreds of guns come into California from Nevada. Lawmakers want to stop it

Laura Miller places stuffed bear at memorial to Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting victims
Laura Miller places a stuffed bear at a memorial to those killed in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting. The gunman legally bought the rifle used in the attack weeks earlier in Nevada.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Alarmed that the gun used in a mass shooting in Gilroy was bought legally in Nevada, two dozen California legislators on Wednesday asked their counterparts in the neighboring state to meet this fall to discuss strengthening restrictions on firearms.

The unusual proposal was made in a letter to Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, who is a Democrat, and the Democrat-controlled Legislature just weeks after a 19-year-old resident of that state opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, killing three people and wounding 13.

“While California has enacted numerous gun safety measures, this tragedy underscores the need for California to work closely with neighboring states to close loopholes and advance common-sense gun safety measures,” said the letter signed by 27 Democratic legislators, including Assembly members Jesse Gabriel of Encino, Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles and Buffy Wicks of Oakland.


Gunman Santino William Legan bought the semiautomatic rifle legally in Nevada less than three weeks before the July 28 attack. The weapon, which authorities describe as a military-style AK-47, cannot be legally purchased in California or imported into the state, California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said.

California also bans the sale or possession of ammunition magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds, but authorities said Legan, who the coroner says killed himself during a gun battle with police, had a 75-round drum magazine and five 40-round magazines.

Gabriel said there are two California laws he would like to see adopted in Nevada that would have blocked the Gilroy shooter — a ban on assault weapons and a prohibition on selling guns to anyone younger than 21.

“This shooting in Gilroy was a reminder that lax gun laws in other states impact our safety here in California,” Gabriel said.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives traced 1,554 guns recovered in California in 2017 to original purchases in Nevada, with many of them found at crime scenes, confiscated from criminals or found unclaimed.

Nevada’s Frierson said Wednesday that he is open to talking to his counterparts in California.


“I welcome collaboration on gun safety issues with colleagues from other states,” he said. He cited “great strides” made by Nevada this year in adopting legislation.

“Sadly, gun violence is an epidemic across the country, and I believe the best way to ensure we are fully addressing this as a country is by addressing it holistically at the local, state and federal level,” he said.

Republican Nevada Assemblyman Tom Roberts of Las Vegas said he is also willing to talk to California lawmakers about gun issues, but he wants to make sure it is not a limited discussion.

“I just hope that the discussion includes stakeholders on both sides of the issue and includes legislators from both parties,” Roberts said. “In addition, I would hope that the discussion would include other measures that focus on the entirety of the problem and not just guns.”

In the two weeks after a gun show is held in Nevada, injuries and deaths involving firearms jump by 69% — in neighboring areas of California.

Oct. 23, 2017

The letter from California lawmakers supports Nevada’s recent passage of gun control legislation, including Senate Bill 143, which mandates background checks for private-party gun sales. The measure was signed into law in February by Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat.

“However, we believe that much more can be done to prevent gun violence and ensure the safety of both Nevada and California residents,” the letter from California lawmakers said.


Sisolak said in a statement Tuesday that he has supported other measures, including a “red flag” law that removes guns from people deemed to pose a public threat, and he has said he would like to see additional gun safety measures in Nevada.

“I’m proud that we passed common-sense reforms that keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm,” he said. “I will continue working with law enforcement, elected and community leaders, and subject-matter experts to explore different ways we can keep Nevadans safe.”

On Tuesday, Sisolak and California Gov. Gavin Newsom attended a conservation meeting at Lake Tahoe with leaders from California and Nevada. Newsom said just after the Gilroy shooting that he wanted to talk to Sisolak about gun issues, but they had not connected. His office did not respond to a request for comment on whether the two governors have since talked about gun issues, including at Tuesday’s event.

The California legislators wrote that cooperation between states is needed “especially as congressional Republicans continue to block common-sense gun safety legislation.”

California has worked out cooperative agreements with other states in the past on other issues. Former Gov. Jerry Brown signed agreements to align California’s clean energy policies with those of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. The pacts set nonbinding goals.

The idea of a two-state summit has the backing of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood), and the authors of the letter said they hope other states also improve cooperation on gun control.


“This summit would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate groundbreaking, state-level coordination that could serve as a model for other states across the United States,” the legislators said.