One of the most harebrained, fetid proposals ever to waft out of the cesspool of New York City has landed with a sickening splat on Nevada’s November ballot and it just might become law — jeopardizing our freedoms and constitutional rights without accomplishing so much as a scintilla of its intended purpose.
Question 1 would require “universal” background checks on all gun purchases. It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.
A summary of the measure reads in part: “This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service.”
Failure to comply is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.
A recent statewide survey conducted on behalf of the Las Vegas newspaper found that 58 percent favor passage of Question 1 compared to only 32 percent opposed.
So far, a majority of Nevada sheriffs have come out against the background check initiative, as well as the governor and the attorney general. The consensus is that the measure will do nothing to stop criminals from getting their hands on guns — well, they are criminals after all — but the complexity of the law will doubtless ensnare innocent gun owners and waste the time of gun owners and those in law enforcement, as well as the taxpayers’ money.
The National Rifle Association, which obviously opposes Question 1, points out that the assumption that background checks will keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a total hallucination. Criminals get firearms on the black market, street purchases and theft. A Department of Justice analysis found 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes got their guns in one of those ways or from friends or family. Less than 1 percent got firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.
The law is so strict that a gun seller whose purchase fails to go through for some reason will have to pay for and undergo a background check to get his own weapon back from the licensed federal firearm dealer.
Opponents note that if passed Question 1 would not allow a person to lend a weapon for hunting or target shooting until both parties appear before a licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee and relinquish the weapon until the background check is completed.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement: “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my fellow Nevadans are safe. I have carefully reviewed the Question 1 initiative and have concluded that it would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and would instead cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.”
A spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying: “The governor does not support Question 1. He has concerns that this measure would dilute the legitimate rights of law-abiding Nevadans and that it does not actually address the complex issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.”
Typical of the views of most sheriffs was a comment to the press by Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts: “Only the citizens who follow the law are going to be the ones who follow it, and the ones that are the criminals aren’t going to follow it anyway. … This comes back again to unfunded mandates that they’re passing on to the local law enforcement that we just don’t have the manpower or the money to do this.”
Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said: “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”
This newspaper urges Nevada voters to soundly reject Question 1.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.