Sam Brown opposes many gun safety reforms. How will that shape the 2024 US Senate race?

Sam Brown

Republican U.S. Senatorial candidate Sam Brown talks with supporter as he arrives to files his paperwork to run for the Senate, Thursday, March 14, 2024, at the State Capitol in Carson City, Nev. (AP Photo/Andy Barron)

By Casey Harrison

June 3, 2024

Sam Brown has been on record saying he opposes many gun safety measures supported by Nevada voters, and that the Second Amendment ‘shall not be infringed.’

Since his foray into Nevada politics nearly four years ago, Republican US senate candidate Sam Brown has been frank when it comes to his laissez faire stance on gun regulations.

As a longshot for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic US Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto in 2022, Brown said to a pro-gun political action group during a virtual town hall that what he loves about the Second Amendment is that it’s “clear, it’s concise, and it stands alone.”

I think [the Second Amendment] has and should continue to stand the test of time,” Brown told the Nevada Firearms PAC in February 2022. “There are clearly those who are against it, want to water it down and try and find all sorts of exceptions or reasons to use judicial means of restricting our ability to bear arms. And that is something that shall not be infringed, and I think it should stay that way.”

The way Brown sees it, he told the PAC, law-abiding gun owners shouldn’t have to concede their freedoms, especially while determined criminals would likely turn to the black market to get guns. Months later, two days after a racially-motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, left 10 dead, Brown told a conservative Las Vegas radio station when asked what could be done to prevent future mass shootings that, if elected, he’d be unwilling to consider a “so-called” middle ground.

“We’ve got a lot of laws already on the books,” Brown told KMZQ-AM host Kevin Wall on May 16. “We have, certainly mental health issues, but we have also just a breakdown of some of the processes that are in place.”

MORE: Sam Brown walks backs 2022 comments supporting Yucca Mountain

Brown’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Nevadan to discuss his stance on gun legislation. And while Brown, who moved to Reno from Texas in 2018, has not yet listed any endorsements from pro-gun groups this cycle, he held an event at a Pahrump armory in April, and was given an “A” rating from the Nevada Firearms PAC last cycle, as well as a 92% rating from the National Rifle Association, according to the nonpartisan candidate tracker Vote Smart.

Brown ultimately finished second in the 2022 GOP primary to former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (who would go on to lose to Cortez Masto by about 8,000 votes). But throughout that cycle, Brown routinely criticized Laxalt’s role in the passage of a 2019 “red flag” law establishing court petitions for an extreme-risk protective order as a way to temporarily confiscate a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others —

Nevada’s red flag law that was among a series of reforms passed by state lawmakers in response to the Oct. 1, 2017, shooting at a Las Vegas country music festival that killed 60 people and remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history.

In that forum with the Nevada Firearms PAC, Brown also said he opposed legislation that would have banned the sale and manufacturing of gun magazines that could hold more than 10 rounds. The Purple Heart recipient also told the group he took no issue with handgun build kits (i.e. “ghost guns”) such as those sold by Nevada-based Polymer80, which the state has moved to ban and opponents say allow individuals barred from purchasing traditional guns to build an unserialized weapon and circumvent necessary background checks.

For many voters, including many young people who in November plan to participate in their first presidential race, gun safety legislation ranks as a top priority for domestic issues alongside combating climate change and affordable housing.

“Students already have to pay high costs for tuition, and those costs should not have to include their safety,” said Christian Solomon, a student and activist who spoke at a news conference last month at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to highlight the difference between President Joe Biden and likely Republican nominee former President Donald Trump.

A 2022 poll from The Nevada Independent and OH Insights showed a majority (49%) of the 924 registered voters surveyed believed stricter gun laws would lead to fewer mass shootings in the US. That same poll showed vast support (83%) for expanding background checks to private sales, and 75% who favored raising the age minimum for purchasing assault-style rifles to 21 from 18.

“The majority of Nevadans want to see common-sense action to keep children and families safe from gun violence,” said Gladis Merino, political director of GIFFORDS, an advocacy and research group that focuses on promoting gun safety reforms.

Merino said Brown’s public comments leave gun safety advocates like her to believe Brown would have been among the Republican holdouts to the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which expanded background checks and provided funding for mental health services and state implementation of red flag laws like Nevada’s. Fifteen GOP Senators crossed party lines to help pass the bill, which Biden said represents the most substantive federal gun safety legislation in decades.

“I think he is out of step with the many moderate GOP and non-partisan voters who want to see action on reducing gun violence,” said Merino.

While Brown second-place finish in the 2022 Republican senate primary was a setback in the moment, his fundraising and rise in the polls as a relative unknown from that cycle helped catch the attention of prolific GOP donors — including the official fundraising arm of Senate Republicans, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

While polling has been scant for Brown’s primary, most surveys assume Brown will be the candidate to face incumbent Sen. Jacky Rosen. The Cook Political Report forecasts the race as a “toss-up” while a May 9 New York Times/Siena College poll of 614 registered voters showed Rosen leading Brown 40 percentage points to his 38.

Rosen was a vocal proponent in passing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act signed by Biden in 2022 and has cosponsored a number of gun safety bills since first being elected to the Senate in 2019.

Last year, Rosen cosponsored a bill that would expand background checks to all commercial and private gun sales, and, in the aftermath of the Oct. 1 shooting, has pushed to ban accessories used by the gunman, such as high-capacity magazines and firearm attachments called bump stocks, which can harness a weapon’s recoil and allows a semi-automatic rifle to fire multiple rounds with the single pull of a trigger.

GIFFORDS’ political fundraising arm endorsed Rosen last August, and Merino believes her views align more closely with Nevadans’ than Brown’s.

“This is a deeply personal issue for people in Nevada, and it’s one that Sam Brown has not even attempted to understand,” Merino said. “The way he views gun safety reform does not line up with Nevadans.”

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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