Nevada eyes fix for stalled gun background check initiative


Ryan Tarinelli / AP

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, minority floor leader, at podium, speaks to fellow Republican lawmakers, Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, as they voice their objections to a bill requiring background checks on gun sales and transfers between private parties, at the Nevada legislature in Carson City.

Mon, Feb 11, 2019 (7:45 p.m.)

CARSON CITY — Nevada legislation requiring background checks on gun sales and private transfers was introduced Monday.

The bill underscores a larger push for gun control from Democrats this legislative session, the first since a 2017 mass shooting at a music festival killed 58 people and left hundreds injured. The attack on the Las Vegas Strip was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

"This is important to (the) majority of Nevadans," said Democratic Senator Julia Ratti, referencing a 2016 gun background check initiative approved by voters. The voter-approved measure has gone unenforced.

Former Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, both Republicans, said the law could not be enforced and was flawed.

The Assembly and Senate will hold a joint meeting Tuesday to discuss the proposal.

The bill aims to close a loophole that allows people to purchase guns and avoid background checks by going through unlicensed gun sellers. The legislation would require a licensed dealer to conduct a background check on a firearm buyer when those involved in the transaction are unlicensed.

"We want to make sure that guns are not ending up (in) the hands of people who shouldn't have them. And it's time that the state of Nevada acts," Ratti said.

A first offense under the bill would be a gross misdemeanor while second or subsequent violations would be a felony.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., require criminal background checks on sales by unlicensed gun sellers, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Nevada's legislation says millions of guns are exchanged in the U.S. each year due to the loophole.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak said last month that he's working with the lawmakers to enforce the initiative.

Republican lawmakers on Monday accused Democrats of hurrying the legislation through.

"We're simply asking 'What's the rush?' Besides forcing a national political agenda that does not support Nevada's best interest," Minority Floor Leader Jim Wheeler said.

Besides the gun sales background check bill, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui said she working on other legislation that would ban bump stocks, which were used by the shooter in the 2017 mass shooting to mimic the firing pace of an automatic weapon. Jauregui, who attended the music festival, said she plans to include the bump stock ban in a larger, more comprehensive bill to prevent gun violence.

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