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Nevada's Debate, Our Guns And Our Politics In The Spotlight

Will he or won't he?

That is, will Donald Trump take the stage with other Republican presidential candidates at The Venetian? Or will he stay out if CNN doesn't pay him a $5 million fee?

Yep, it's that time again. Time for the national spotlight to shine on Las Vegas.

But there are more than the presidency on the state's political plate.

At a more immediate level, a state commission has approved a special license plate for a Christian pro-life group.

And the shooting in San Bernardino, three hours away, brings us back to the one issue everyone in America is thinking about: gun control.

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS:

On Gun Control

Cosgrove: "The League of Women Voters does have a position on gun regulation and we do support universal background checks. But we tend to look at issues that are related to gun violence holistically. So we also support improving mental health care. We support addressing domestic violence. We support issues that are related to poverty, because you can never look at an incident and say there is one overriding issue that you can address that's going to fix that problem."

Ralston:  "We're going to have a background check initiative on the ballot next year. 

Do I think it has a chance? Yes. We're talking a long time from now when its going to be voted on. Something like background checks is very, very popular, but the argument against background checks by the NRA and other so-called gun rights activists that it is a slippery slope... that they're going to be coming for your guns eventually"

Support comes from

Sebelius:  "I think there will be an expanded push for [looser gun laws in Nevada]. Nevada remains a very libertarian state, a very Second Amendment state and so I think you're definitely going to see these laws come up again and again and again in the Legislature, especially as long as folks like Michele Fiore are going to be there trying to introduce these bills."

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore has been an outspoken advocate for gun rights in Nevada. She introduced a bill that would have allowed people with concealed weapon permits to bring their guns onto college and school campuses. The bill failed in the Legislature.

Fiore's family Christmas card is pictured below:

Twitter/Howard Stutz 

On Fiore Christmas Card:

Ralston: "The tone deafness to do something like that at this time and yet what I fear the most is that people who receive that Christmas card and receive that email (according to Ralston, Fiore sent an email to supporters telling them to arm and train themselves to prevent the kind of shooting that happened in San Bernardino) will say 'right on Michele! You're on the right track!"

Sebelius: "In normal circumstances, it would just be a cartoonish gesture but specifically in the wake of this mass shooting in San Bernardino and in the wake of all of the other mass shootings in Paris and other places like that it strikes me as terribly insensitive to some of the victims of gun violence." 

On controversial pro-life license plate:

Cosgrove: "The question when you're looking at the state and religion is not so much that they always have to remain separate its that if you're going to privilege one group you're going to have to privilege all religious groups and that's usually where you get into trouble is that you can't just single out one religious group and say you're going to get to do this and no body else 

Ralston: "It is all about how you define a religious group because if it's defined as a religious group it clearly cannot be done for the same reason that is being argued in the ACLU's case in the school choice bill. You can't use state money for a religious purpose. You just can't do it."

Sebelius: "I think it would amusing to see how many supporters of this license plate would drop off if there were a license plate featuring the crescent moon... How many folks would continue to support the use of state funds or the funneling of some state funds to an organization that would purpose that has a license plate"

On Attorney General Adam Laxalt:

Sebelius: "Certainly there is no love lost between these two men [AG Laxalt and Gov. Brian Sandoval] and I think it goes back to the campaign of 2014. 

"Clearly, you see Adam Laxalt joining lawsuits that the governor not only wishes he wouldn't join but is adamantly opposed to him joining. I think you're going see the tension grow as the years go by because the attorney general has shown no sign of backing off his campaign promise to sue the federal government when he in his words 'believes that the rights or freedoms of the state of Nevada are threatened.'

Ralston: "Laxalt has no intention of backing off any of the stuff that he's doing that the governor or anybody else does not like. He is trying now in my opinion, or it's a consequence of what he's doing, he is adopting the conservative-leader-of-Nevada mantle that Brian Sandoval has never had and by the way, does not want." 

"He is clearly running a political and legal operation out of the Attorney General's office unlike anything I have ever seen"

On Nevada in the presidential race:

Sebelius: "I think the fact that he [Sheldon Adelson] is literally the single largest individual donor, he and Miriam Adelson, from the last cycle is important for us to know about because he can move elections. 

"I think the newest thing I've read and come to appreciate is that Sheldon Adelson is now trying to chart a different course. He is not going to give money just because he likes a particular person. He is going to give money because  he wants to win. So he his trying to pick a winner."

Cosgrove: "We've been looking at money in politics because we want to revise our position post-Citizens United. And it's interesting as we started going through the data it seems like the candidates on both sides of the aisle that have the most money behind them are actually not in the lead on the Republican side and really struggling on the Democratic side."

Ralston: "Bernie Sanders still has appeal to a very activist wing of the Democratic party. What he says about income inequality resonants with all demographics I think. So I think Hillary Clinton has been concerned about that."

Guests

Jon Ralston, politics columnist, Reno Gazette Journal, host of PBS's "Ralston Live"; Steve Sebelius, politics columnist, Las Vegas Review-Journal, host of KLAS's "Politics Now"; Sondra Cosgrove, CSN history/politics professor; president, Las Vegas Valley League of Women's Voters

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