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Brianna’s Law: The Black Mark of Politics
by David Farside
Jun 20, 2011 | 767 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The political battle over “Brianna’s Law” is a prime example of Nevada politics as usual. Assembly Bill 552, named in memory of Brianna Denison, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2008, would have required DNA samples from everyone arrested on suspicion of a misdemeanor sex crime or a felony. On the surface, passing the bill seemed like a no-brainer. But instead of approving the bill, the strategies from the extreme left and right divided the Senate Judiciary Committee and conquered the State Finance Committee chairman.

Attacking from the liberal left, The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) opposed the bill claiming it infringed upon our civil rights. The group argued that everyone arrested would be forced to allow the DNA testing before they were found guilty of a crime. How ridiculous is that argument? Currently, anyone arrested for any reason is booked and fingerprinted. Why is that any different than providing a DNA sample? And what about the civil rights for the victims of sex crimes and other felonious crimes? You would expect the ACLU to oppose the bill: That’s what they do, and at times I have supported some of their arguments, but not this time.

DNA samples from the “accused” sex offender would aid in the prevention of kidnap, rape and the murder of unsuspecting women by recidivists (repeat sex offenders) in the future. Researchers R. Karl Hanson and Kelly E. Morton-Bourgon of Public Safety Canada conducted a large-scale meta-analysis of repeat sex-offending rates among adults. They found a rate of 14 percent over a period averaging five to six years, however recidivism rates increased over time, reaching 24 percent by 15 years. Using the threat of having DNA sampling on file as a deterrent, we would reduce repeat sex offenses and save innocent lives.

To further jeopardize the bill, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) added its political sound of ignorance to the debate and effectively doomed the legislation.

Late in the hearings, NAACP representatives proposed an amendment that would mandate a study on why the majority of people stopped and questioned by police for traffic violations were black and Latino. They didn’t know if it was due to racial profiling or because blacks and Latinos disobey the traffic laws more frequently than others. Actually, they just wanted a study to delay and effectively block the passage of the bill.

Playing into the hand of the  NAACP, the Judiciary Committee wanted to know how much the study would cost the state and, with only one day left in the legislative session, passed the buck to the Finance Committee chaired by the state Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. An African American, Horsford naturally sided with the ACLU and NAACP. Saying there were “profound implications for privacy rights” involved, he refused to allow his committee to vote up or down, killing any last-minute chance of the bill being voted on by the complete Senate.

Senate members from the conservative right also opposed the bill on constitutional grounds. Echoing his own sound of ignorance, state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said he didn’t know if it was constitutional and could withstand a court challenge. Of course he knew! He admitted similar California legislation was upheld in the 9th Circuit Court, but he didn’t trust the court based on its past decisions. He’s probably referring to the court’s decision to uphold the striking of the words “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Gustavson has made a career trying to repeal the state’s helmet law. His unsuccessful attempts have saved the lives of countless motorcycle riders over the last 20 years. His stand on this bill might have cost the lives of women throughout the state.

The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. Taking a DNA sample at the time of arrest is no different than taking a fingerprint and is not unreasonable. It guards the innocent from being wrongfully accused and protects society from the guilty. But thanks to the lobbying of the ACLU, NAACP and the leadership of Sen. Horsford, there will always be a black mark of politics stamped on any future legislation that resembles “Brianna’s Law.”

David Farside is a Sparks resident and political activist. The polemics of his articles can be discussed at His website is
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