On Senate floor, Reid invokes bill he sponsored almost a half-century ago for a three-day waiting period for guns

In 1969, two freshmen Democratic assemblymen from Southern Nevada introduced a bill that would have mandated a statewide three-day waiting period for gun purchases.

The measure was introduced on Feb. 6 and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee. It was never seen again.

It wasn't for lack of trying, though. One of the young lawmakers even flew to the rural city of Battle Mountain, where he was not met with a welcome reception at the Rod and Gun Club.

On March 26, the two Democrats tried to get it passed out of the judiciary panel; the motion failed.

Their names: Harry Reid and Richard Bryan, later to be famously dubbed as the precocious "Gold Dust Twins" of Carson City.

And in a facsinating bit of Nevada history, their bill came after a Republican governor by the name of Paul Laxalt (!) had called the previous year for a waiting period. (Yes, that happened. See the Reno Evening Gazette article posted here.)

Reid, who served only one term at the beginning of a storied career that brought him to the pinnacle of DC power, brought up the 44-year-old measure this morning on the U.S. Senate floor, shortly before he told the world he was trying for a vote on a comprehensive gun control bill by Thursday:

"I was a brand new member of the Nevada state Legislature. I was a kid, but Sheriff Lamb, the sheriff of Clark County at the time -- Dennis Quaid is playing Ralph Lamb (a reference to the show, "Vegas") -- he  came to me and he said, "I need to do something because we have -- we need people to wait a while before they purchase a  handgun. I went to the Legislature not really understanding the process totally but I introduced legislation that passed and became the law. that in Nevada if you purchase a handgun you have to wait three days to pick it up."

Well, not quite.

Nevada does not have a three-day waiting period. Clark County does.(I have posted some of that history here, too. It was passed in 1965 by the Clark County Commission, replacing a 1948 ordinance. That urban anomaly consistently has rankled residents in other areas of the state. Indeed, this session in Carson City, reliably conservative state Sen. Don Gustavson is trying (again) to repeal the three-day-waiting period in Southern Nevada.

Reid seemed certain his bill passed in 1969, but as you can see from the bill and minutes attached here, it went nowhere. In 1989, lawmakers enacted a statute that essentially gave permission to Clark County to do what it had done a quarter-century earlier but made it clear gun laws were the province of the state government. (All the credit for this information goes to the wonderful folks at the Legislative Counsel Bureau's Research Division, who dug into the archives for me.)

But the issue here isn't so much that Reid has a hazy memory of a bill he sponsored before he turned 30 in his only legislative session four and a half decades ago. What is interesting is that this is another part of the mosaic, and a jumbled one, for the majority leader's history on gun control. He is seen as a pro-gun guy, but his history suggests a more nuanced view.

Liberal state lawmakers evolves into deal-making DC insider? Maybe. Or, perhaps, he is like so many others from Western or rural states, whose gun positions are not so black-and-white, whose statnces are affected by constuencies but roiled by events.

That measure so long ago actually was bipartisan. Bryan, who went on to become a governor and senator, was not the only co-sponsor. So, too, was another southern assemblyman -- Republican Woodrow Wilson. And if the bill had passed, Laxalt surely would have signed it as you can see from the Reno Evening Gazette, he wanted the waiting period but was opposed to registration laws.

Reid has voted for waiting periods since he arrived on Capitol Hill in 1983, and he has many other votes that rile up the pro-gun lobby. But he spoke today with that picture of the Newtown memorial in the background, trying to pressure Republicans not to filibuster his package that has infuriated some on  he left because it does not include an assault weapons ban. (Reid has assured supporters of the ban, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, that he will hold a seperate vote.)

Reid will catch flak no matter what he does on guns. But the good news for him is he won't ever again have to go to Battle Mountain to try to sell it.


(Picture via scpr.com.)