Nevada's gun background check battle, part two

Democrats, who now control the Nevada Legislature and the Governor’s office, promise quick action on the bill

On Monday, Nevada Democrats unveiled their proposal to institute background checks on private gun sales in Nevada. A measure to do that, passed narrowly by voters in a 2016 initiative, had been stalled for the past two years.

Democrats, who now control the Nevada Legislature and the Governor’s office, promise quick action on the bill, Senate Bill 143, as the nation’s approaches Thursday’s anniversary of the mass shooting at a Florida high school.

SB143 lists eight primary sponsors and 28 co-sponsors, all Democrats. Hearings begin 8 a.m. Tuesday morning on the measure before a joint session of the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committees. The hearing takes place in Carson City and will be video-conferenced to the Grant Sawyer State office building in Las Vegas, room 4412.

Action can't come soon enough for people like activist Ariana Saunders, who is with the group Moms Demand Action.

“I've lost family members, I've had friends that have lost family members, yes. It’ s kind of hard not to be affected by gun violence,” Saunders says. “We want to see our community safer. The voters of Nevada voted for that legislation. A lot of volunteers for our organization worked hard to see that passed.”

The debate about background checks brings out Second Amendment supporters too.

“From my own personal opinion, I don't like it because it's just more infringement on our rights,” says gun store owner Mark Hames, who owns 2nd Amendment Guns and Accessories on North Rancho Drive.

The 2016 measure stalled because it relied on the FBI to do the private sale background checks, something the agency said it could not do. Eventually, the background check initiative wound up in court. It now sits before the Nevada Supreme Court.

SB143 would repeal the 2016 background check initiative, and would take the FBI out of the equation. Private sales would now be screened by Nevada's Department of Public Safety, which is what happens already for sales at any licensed gun store, like Mark's.

It would exempt transfers between family members. It also exempts transfers between law enforcement.

The bill says background checks on private sales would begin in 2020.

Hames says this additional background check goes after the wrong people.

"With all gun legislation, it usually always affects the good guys, never the bad guys," Hames says. "The bad guys are gonna do what they do, 'cause they're the bad guys."

Democrats here promise to pass something quickly in order to mark the tragedy in Florida, which happened four months after our massacre on the Strip -- which, at 58 victims, remains America's deadliest mass shooting.

The potential speed of the private background check legislation alarms people like Don Turner, the president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition.

"I think that we have a legislative process that should be followed," Turner says.

But background check supporters says this is already two years overdue.

“We've seen in states where they have passed expansion of the background checks to private sales that gun crimes have gone down,” says Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, who, as a State Senator in 2013, saw his own background check measure vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. Jones was one of the main backers of the 2016 initiative called Question 1.

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