“Lombardo’s claims were wildly inaccurate”

“[A]s a candidate for governor, he appealed to the Republican base by downplaying the threat posed by untraceable weapons”

A new report from the Nevada Independent found that in 2021, during the heated GOP primary for Governor, Lombardo lied about the gravity of Nevada’s ghost gun issue to pander to the extreme Republican base. When asked about the issue of ghost guns during a forum hosted by a right-wing gun lobbying and political advocacy organization, Lombardo stated only six had been seized by police – a lie that was uncovered when records showed it was actually hundreds. Once in office, Lombardo attempted to roll back popular, bipartisan legislation aimed at criminal justice reform and reducing recidivism, he also vetoed common-sense gun violence prevention legislation that would have protected Nevada families, law enforcement officers, and communities – including banning ghost guns. 

“As we’ve said all along, Joe Lombardo is a corrupt politician willing to do or say anything to win,” said Nevada State Party Executive Director Hilary Barrett. “Now, the evidence is mounting: When it comes to personal gain, Lombardo will prioritize furthering his political career over the wellbeing – and even the lives – of Nevadans.”

Read more about Lombardo’s lies below: 

KUNR Public Radio: In 2021, Lombardo said ghost guns weren’t a ‘big issue’ in Las Vegas. Police records say otherwise

February 14, 2024

By Bert Johnson, Chris Haxel, Kate Martin

  • In June 2021, a 17-year-old pulled a pistol out of his Louis Vuitton shoulder bag and fatally shot a 39-year-old man in the parking lot of a Las Vegas apartment complex. According to court documents, the victim was high on methamphetamine and had been acting erratically before swinging at the teen with a fist.
  • That same day, Joe Lombardo, sheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, met on Zoom with a group of pro-gun voters. 
  • He was in the early stages of his campaign for the Republican nomination for governor. The event was held by the Nevada Firearms Coalition PAC. When the group’s lobbyist, Randi Thompson, asked about his stance on ghost guns, Lombardo downplayed the prevalence of the untraceable, easy-to-assemble firearms. He said his department had tracked only six incidents involving ghost guns over the previous year and none of those guns had been used in crimes.
  • Lombardo told Thompson that ghost guns were “not a big issue.”
  • But according to a list of impounded ghost guns his department maintained at the time, Lombardo’s claims were wildly inaccurate. Las Vegas police seized more than 200 ghost guns in the year leading up to his June interview, according to an analysis by KUNR Public Radio and APM Reports.
  • Despite Lombardo’s claims to the contrary, officers seized ghost guns while responding to violent crimes such as robbery, assault and domestic violence.
  • Just three weeks before Lombardo made his comments, officers arrested a man with three prior felony convictions after he allegedly pointed a ghost gun at his ex-girlfriend and threatened to kill her.
  • And three months before Lombardo’s statement, a 20-year-old man accidentally killed his 16-year-old brother in a hotel room on the Las Vegas Strip with a ghost gun he built himself. According to media reports, the man told authorities that he’d been trying to scare his brother while holding a gun he didn’t realize was loaded.
  • KUNR and APM Reports reviewed records of nearly 40,000 handguns that were seized by Las Vegas police between 2015 and late 2023. The analysis was limited to handguns, because they represent the overwhelming majority of firearms used in crime. Most of the ghost guns seized by Las Vegas police during that time were sold by Polymer80, based in Dayton, Nevada. The company, which “designs and develops firearms and their components,” is the largest source of ghost guns in the country, according to law enforcement agencies. 
  • Lombardo’s comments as a candidate foreshadowed how he would approach the issue of ghost guns as governor. Last year, as his former department continued to seize dozens of ghost guns each month, Lombardo vetoed a bill that would have banned the guns’ components. 
  • Lombardo declined interview requests to discuss the discrepancy but issued a statement through his spokeswoman in the governor’s office. 
  • In Clark County, the office of sheriff is nonpartisan. And since at least 2016, Lombardo has expressed support for some gun control measures, including universal background checks. But as a candidate for governor, he appealed to the Republican base by downplaying the threat posed by untraceable weapons.
  • The Nevada Firearms Coalition PAC would go on to endorse Lombardo in the general election.
  • It’s in that context that Thompson, with the Nevada Firearms Coalition PAC, asked Lombardo during the virtual candidate forum on June 24, 2021, what he’d seen as sheriff.
  • “First of all, can you tell me how many times an unserialized, homemade gun was used in a crime in Clark County?” she asked.
  • “We started tracking it around mid — about summer last year. And we’ve had six incidences with ghost guns,” Lombardo replied. “None of them were guns utilized in a crime. They were people in possession of them illegally, like in a [concealed carry weapon] capacity.”
  • In reality, Las Vegas police recovered 252 ghost guns in that period. That includes 230 ghost guns the department documented internally, plus 22 additional ghost guns that KUNR and APM Reports discovered through an analysis of department records.
  • In June 2021, while Lombardo made his pitch to Thompson and the pro-gun voters she represents, Thompson asked about his support for universal background checks.
  • “There’s always that mantra: ‘Well, crooks are gonna get them no matter what. The universal background check isn’t going to fix it,’” Lombardo said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t create a system to prevent bad guys from getting guns.”

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