Steven Brooks, a Democratic state lawmaker in Nevada, wanted a gun. So last Thursday, the 40-year-old father of four went to a sporting goods store in Sparks, Nev. and attempted to buy one. That triggered a background check. And that background check has triggered headlines. But then, Brooks has been in headlines for weeks.
Media outlets in Nevada have been covering Brooks heavily because of his recent run of troubling behavior, which began in late January, just days before he was sworn in to his second term in the Nevada Assembly.
“I’ve had a month of hell,” Brooks told The Las Vegas Review-Journal last month, after his first arrest of 2013, but before his second one, which occurred earlier this month. “I had the worst month I had in all my life and the new year just started.”
Brooks’ was first arrested on Jan. 19, after he was accused of threatening state Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D). Police found a gun and ammunition in his car at the time. According to the Associated Press, Brooks’ dispute with Kirkpatrick involved committee assignments. Brooks posted bail, but, a few days later, he was detained again after a “disturbance” at his grandmother’s house involving a sword. After that incident, Brooks was hospitalized for psychiatric evaluation. Then, on Feb. 10, he was arrested again, “on suspicion of physically attacking his estranged wife in Las Vegas, then grabbing for an officer’s gun as he was taken into custody,” according to the AP. A few days after that second arrest, Brooks was kicked out of a restaurant in Reno, Nev. for what have been called “unspecified reasons.” Last week, a judge in Las Vegas dissolved a protective order sought by Brooks’ wife, when both Brooks and his wife failed to show up at a court date, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, Brooks was banned from the state legislature, put on leave, and an Assembly committee began reviewing whether he is fit to serve in his elected position. (In early February, Assembly Democrats also expelled him from their party caucus.)
But Brooks has yet to be charged with anything. So until this week, there was a chance he would be allowed to buy that rifle he wanted.
Last week, Patrick Conmay, chief of the Nevada Department of Public Safety’s Record and Technology Division, told the Las Vegas Sun that because of the arrests it was possible Brooks’ background check would come back as “unresolved.”
“Typically, an ‘unresolved’ is where we see an arrest reported on a rap sheet without any disposition needed to make a decision,” Conmay told the Sun. “The firearm dealer can decide to go ahead and sell the gun, but most of the time when the dealer is notified there is still an issue, they don’t do that.”
On Monday, however, the Nevada Department of Public Safety announced that Brooks would be barred for one year from buying a firearm from a licensed gun dealer, as a result of information found during the background check. The exact reason for the denial was not released. Still, Conway told the Review-Journal, the ruling did nothing to prohibit Brooks from buying a gun from a private seller.
Before the Department of Public Safety’s decision was made public, lawmakers and law enforcement officials had expressed concerns about Brooks’ attempt to get a gun. Assembly Majority Leader William Horne (D), who is heading up the committee investigating Brooks, said he hoped his fellow Democrat did not get a firearm.
“I hope Mr. Brooks gets some help,” Horne said
Between his arrests, Brooks gave a rambling interview to a reporter with the Review-Journal, in which Brooks “was shirtless much of the time, walking with a heavy limp and showing a reporter myriad swollen spots on his face, neck and torso that he and [his lawyer] attributed to mistreatment before and after his arrest.” Brooks mentioned some kind of dispute with a Las Vegas councilman. And he also argued that he — and not Kirkpatrick, the Assembly speaker — was the one in danger.
“If [Kirkpatrick] comes to kill me again, I have an armed guard,” Brooks said. “No one is going to touch me again, I’m safe.”
According to reports, Brooks is currently staying with relatives in Sparks, just east of Reno.
Neither Brooks nor his attorney returned requests for comment from TPM on Monday.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com