AP Photo/John Locher, File
AP Photo/John Locher, File

Even as Nevada’s murder rate is down 20% this year, Republican candidate Sigal Chattah has tried to paint a dystopian portrait of the state and pin the blame on incumbent Attorney General Ford. Notably, however, Chattah opposes tougher laws surrounding the main weapon used in murders: guns.

Every Nevadan wants their family to be safe, secure, and free from the dangers of violent crime—which is why it’s good news that Nevada’s murder rate is down significantly this year.

As of the end of July, the number of murders statewide is down nearly 20% year-over-year from 2021, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety. Violent crime remains an issue in the state, but the numbers appear to be trending back towards the baseline from their pandemic-era peaks and the state’s murder rate is now below 2018 levels. 

That decrease comes amid a wave of election year fear-mongering in Nevada, as some candidates have attempted to use the increase in murders and violent crimes during the pandemic as a political weapon—even as such increases happened all across the country, in Democratic- and Republican-led states alike, amid a once-in-a-century upheavel.

Sigal Chattah, the Republican candidate for Nevada attorney general (AG), is one of the candidates who has employed that strategy, seeking to blame incumbent AG Aaron Ford for the rise in violent crimes in 2020 and 2021.

Chattah has lied about Nevada’s murder rate under Ford’s leadership and sought to blame him for the increase in crimes at the local level, even though murders and roberries are usually investigated by local law enforcement and not the state AG. She also tried to blame the uptick in violence on a state law supported by Ford and passed in 2019 that increased access to crime diversion programs for non-violent and low-level offenders. 

There’s been no significant increase in overall crime since the law was passed, and Nevada has actually seen broad declines in statewide levels of violent and property crimes since Ford took office in January 2019. 

Chattah has nonetheless sought to paint a dystopian portrait of Nevada and pin the blame on Ford—even though she herself has refused to entertain tougher laws surrounding the main weapon used in murders: guns. More than two-thirds of murders in Nevada are committed with a gun or firearm and gun sales surged in Nevada during the pandemic. 

Chattah, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, has said that “more incarceration and less legislation would work wonders” and opposes new gun safety laws, despite a large body of research showing that more guns lead to more gun deaths.

In contrast, Ford—a father of three, but also a gun owner—has focused on addressing the plague of gun violence. Ford has acknowledged that Nevada has a “gun problem,” has been a vocal supporter of gun safety laws, and has been explicit about the role guns play in the surge of murders and mass shootings. 

“I’m the Attorney General of NV, & I’ll do everything in my power to continue strengthening safe gun practices,” Ford wrote in a tweet following May’s mass shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas. “It’s the right thing to do: for the families who can’t tuck their kids into bed tonight, for those affected by gun violence, & for the future well-being of our society.”

Ford has previously championed successful efforts to pass broadly popular gun safety laws, including: expanded background checks; closing the gun show loophole; a “red flag” law to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers; a ban on “ghost guns,” or guns that are untraceable; and a ban on bump stocks following the deadly 2017 mass shooting at the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas. 

“Those are types of things that we need to be supporting in this state to ensure that people who shouldn’t own guns don’t come into possession of those guns,” Ford recently told the Nevada Independent. “I think that without those philosophies, you will see absolutely an increase in crime.”

Chattah has aggressively pushed for one gun-related policy: prosecution of “prohibited possessors”—individuals who have been convicted of a felony domestic violence battery or stalking. Under Nevada law, these individuals are banned from possessing a gun and violation of the law is a felony punishable by one to six years of prison time. Chattah also supports mandatory minimum sentences for these individuals.

Both Ford and Chattah have addressed the issue of violent crime in Nevada during their campaigns, but they’ve done so in dramatically different ways. In November, voters will decide between the candidates and their distinctly different paths for Nevada.