Lee Elliott was a child when he learned how to handle a gun.
His father would take him to the back of their California ranch, arm him with a gun loaded with armor-piercing bullets, and have him shoot an “old junk car.”
“Boom,” he said Saturday morning, quietly imitating the sound.
Father and son would then walk to the car and admire the sizable hole.
“I’ve been shooting since I was 10-years old,” Elliott said. “I’ve yet to kill people, I’ve yet to take my gun out to the local supermarket and just open fire, you know?”
Elliott, a Northern Nevada gun rights activist with intentions of running for the Nevada State Senate, and about 100 other protesters, including armed militia members in full camouflage, were at the Nevada State Capitol complex on Saturday to protest a proposal in the Nevada Legislature to strengthen gun laws.
Assembly Bill 286 would ban “ghost guns,” untraceable firearms without serial numbers, which are regularly built at home. The bill would also criminalize bringing guns onto private property where they are banned.
Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, who is sponsoring the bill, said the legislation is in response to the gun violence last fall on the Las Vegas Strip, which saw at least 10 shootings over a four-weekend stretch.
Elliott said the proposal is “knee-jerk” reaction by lawmakers to the mass shootings heavily covered in the news. The two most recent examples happened this month: 10 died last week by a single gunman at a grocery store in Colorado; eight were killed March 16 in a shooting spree at Atlanta spas. The assault rifle used in the Colorado massacre was purchased by the shooter a few days before the rampage.
“I just feel, honestly, that (lawmakers are) using one excuse after another to eliminate the Second Amendment,” Elliott said.
There are more than 400 million guns in circulation in the U.S., which is more firearms than residents, according to the Brookings Institution research group. Asked if he had a solution for taking guns from people who shouldn’t own them, Elliott didn’t have an immediate proposal.
“I guarantee this: If people start knocking on doors (saying) that I’m going to come and take your guns, there is going to be blood in the streets, and that’s scary,” he added.
But Elliott said those who break gun laws need to be punished to the fullest. And those who aren’t properly trained or suffering from mental problems shouldn’t be gun owners, he said.
“If these people are out there being stupid with their guns, they don’t deserve a gun,” Elliott said.
At the rally, a man who only identified himself as Mike, 29, said that gun control legislation only plays on America’s fears by using “buzz words,” such as “ghost guns.”
Guns are not the problem, he said. “The gun is an inanimate object, you have to interact with it.”
His solution would include educating young Americans about guns, and how to use them responsibly. He agreed with Elliott about a “severe punishment” for those who break the law.
“We’re at this point where everyone thinks that guns are so (expletive) bad,” Mike said.
Mike said his mother raised him hating guns. But then he started shooting competitively in middle school, eventually getting a shotgun.
When his mother realized that he knew how to respect weapons, her anti-gun stance changed, he said. Now, she brags about the gun her son got her, he added.
The rally also included a few anti-vaccination protesters against the COVID-19 vaccine. Nevada Capitol Police officers kept an eye from a distance.