Editorial: CCW holders should not undergo background checks, too

It appears that a bill passed earlier this year to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms from one private party to another is being misinterpreted to apply also to Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) Permit holders, who are currently exempt from such background checks when buying from a licensed firearm dealer.

First reported by The Nevada Independent, a donation-sponsored online news outlet, Department of Public Safety (DPS) a month ago sent a letter to all licensed firearm dealers telling them CCW holders will have to now undergo a background check. Senate Bill 143 changed the law to require dealers to conduct background checks for private sales.

The letter does not cite any verbiage in the law but rather relies on testimony before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Judiciary committees in February to support its conclusion.

The pertinent testimony involves questions to the attorney for the gun-grabbing, Michael Bloomberg-financed Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushed a narrowly approved voter referendum in 2016 to require background checks prior to private gun transfers. Because the initiative required the background checks to be conducted by the FBI and the FBI refused to do so, it was deemed unenforceable.

SB143 fixed that flaw by requiring a state agency to conduct such background checks after submission by licensed firearm dealers, who may charge an unspecified fee for doing so.

In the committee testimony, Everytown attorney William Rosen was asked by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles whether CCW holders would be required to undergo background checks under the law. Rosen replied, “That is correct.”

Tolles followed up, “It makes sense that someone who is licensed for a CCW and shows his or her card should not be subject to additional checks. Why would that not apply to private sales?”

Rosen basically replied that CCW permits last for five years and there is a possibility a disqualifying event such as a restraining order might not get into the system to revoke the CCW. Might?

No lawmaker voiced an agreement with Rosen’s contention that this is what the new law requires. Only Rosen’s contention was relied on to show legislative intent.

As a result, Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, sent a letter to DPS challenging the interpretation of the law. “A review of SB143 provides no basis for this determination by DPS. Moreover, the minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary have no legal weight or authority and were never incorporated into the statute itself,” Turner wrote.

Turner noted that the statue requires a licensed dealer to treat the private transaction as if the dealer was conducting the sale from its own inventory. A licensed dealer is allowed to accept the CCW permit in lieu of a background check.

He argues the state cannot override federal law as it pertains to background check exemptions for CCW holders and calls on the agency to change its directive to firearm dealers.

The Nevada Independent notes that the change in background check requirements would especially burden rural counties — pointing out for example that 15 percent of individuals in Nye County and 13 percent of the people in Storey County are CCW holders.

DPS should change its interpretation of the law to one that relies on what the law actually says rather than the vague wishes and whims and speculation of East Coast gun grabbers.

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.

Newspaper column: Give books about Nevada and by Nevadans

With Christmas rapidly approaching you may be casting about for suggestions for what to give that special Nevada friend or family member. What could be better than books about Nevada or by Nevadans? The choices are as varied as the Nevada landscape and its denizens.

Doubly apropos this holiday season is Patricia Cafferata’s “Christmas in Nevada,” a collection of seasonal anecdotes from across the state and across the years.

Cafferata — a former state legislator, state treasurer, district attorney in three counties and daughter of Barbara Vucanovich, the first woman from Nevada to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives — has penned and collected short takes that capture the spirit of giving and community pride. They start with the budding traditions established in mining towns during the territorial days of the 1860s and progress chronologically up the huge modern celebrations.

The small and tall tales from the early days include such scenes as the Virginia City butcher who in 1863 advertised his Christmas wares by parading 184 turkeys down the frozen dirt street to his shop; the huge Christmas fest in the Magnolia Hotel in Winnemucca in 1870 that included fish, oysters, chicken, green vegetables, tea and coffee, liquor and cigars; the “nevergreen” Christmas trees cobbled from scraps of wood in the Tonopah mining camp miles from any real pine trees; the mother in Silver Peak who started making mincemeat in November and preserved it for the holiday by storing it in the cellar draped in brandy-soaked cloths; the Christmas in White Pine County in 1907 during which three miners were trapped inside a collapsed copper mine for 45 days before being rescued and feted with a holiday banquet; and one family’s custom Christmas card tradition that has lasted more than 50 years.

Modern depictions include the Christmas festivities at Opportunity Village in Las Vegas, which helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities develop life skills and find employment opportunities. It started in 1981 with the Magic Forest of lighted Christmas trees, raising about $3,000, but growing in recent years into a major holiday theme park attended by about 10,000 people and raising $1.5 million. Also mentioned are the “12 Days of Christmas” in Elko, the Santa Pub Crawl in Reno and the Santa Run in Las Vegas that have grown from modest beginnings to huge crowds.

Just out earlier this year is native Nevadan and decades-long newspaper columnist John L. Smith’s “The Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice.” The biography introduces you to Joe Neal, the first African America to serve in the Nevada state Senate. It traces his rise from impoverished Madison Parish, La., through his three decades in the state Senate until he earned a place in the Senate’s Hall of Fame.

Smith uses countless sources as well as his own considerable knowledge of the man and the times — both as a journalist and through his parents’ civil rights and union activism — to paint a detailed portrait of the scrappy Neal, who fought for the things he believed in.

For those who seek to experience Nevada and the region for themselves there is the latest edition of Deborah Wall’s “Base Camp Las Vegas,” a guide to 101 hikes in the region. Packed with photos, the book tells one how to get there, when to go, how to prepare, what to expect and what to avoid. It is a must for the explorer.

Another book published this year, if not about Nevada, is a piece of historic fiction by decades-long Nevada journalist A.D. Hopkins, “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” Hopkins has penned a fictional account from his boyhood home in western Virginia during the Eisenhower era, looking at the seamy side of life through the eyes of high school boys.

Yes, the boys might’ve awakened early on occasion, but what they “woke up” was rural Early County and Jubal Early High School, named for a Confederate general. The book is laced with homespun conspiracies, displays of chivalry, dirty tricks, righteous revenge and conflicts that frequently result in gunplay, fisticuffs and the strategic use of ax handles and baseball bats. The plot is compelling and the dialog authentic.

For a cornucopia of books about Nevada and the West, turn to Range magazine’s website where you will find books and calendars depicting the ranching and farming lifestyle and attitudes. Among my favorites are the two “Brushstrokes & Balladeers,” coffee table books featuring Western-themed paintings and cowboy poets, including Elko County native Waddie Mitchell.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Editorial: Don’t despoil public lands with wind and solar power

Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen recently announced she is co-sponsoring a piece of legislation titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, which is touted as bipartisan legislation to promote the development of renewable energy on public lands — which is the vast majority of the land in Nevada.

“Nevada’s public lands are a source of pride and natural beauty in our state, but they also represent a potential home for clean, renewable power that will benefit Nevada and our country,” the senator is quoted in a press release put out by her office. “At a time when we’re facing the real, dangerous effects of climate change, we must find policy solutions to embrace clean energy alternatives to curb harmful carbon emissions. This bipartisan legislation would help to identify and advance additional renewable energy projects in wind, solar, and geothermal on federal lands, which make up nearly 80 percent of our state. I will continue to support forward-thinking policies that put us on a pathway towards a clean energy future.”

The bill would create another federal bureaucracy called the Renewable Energy Coordination Office, which would be tasked with streamlining the permitting of renewable energy development. The bill would set aside a small portion of the leasing revenue for state and local governments.

The trouble with renewable energy generating facilities — especially wind and solar — is that they are not cheap, are not really all that clean and constitute an incredible eyesore on the pristine landscape — witness the massive wind farm near Ely, the photovoltaic solar panels near Boulder City and the thermal solar mirror installations near Ivanpah and Tonopah.

“Not withstanding the romantic view of wind and solar power held by many, they are not cost-competitive, they are very far from clean, and they would do remarkably little to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, the ‘crisis view of which is unsupported by the evidence,” writes Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute in an October edition of the National Review. “Several available analyses show that a major expansion of wind and solar power would increase the emissions of such conventional pollutants as carbon monoxide.”

Zycher cites Institute for Energy Research estimates that wind power is about twice as expensive as conventional gas-fired power and that solar power is almost three times as expensive. Those costs are passed on to the residential and business power customers or the taxpayers via subsidies. “The ubiquitous claims that wind and solar power now are cost-competitive ignore substantial costs for backup power and much longer transmission lines, and the effects of massive subsidies and guaranteed market shares,” Zycher explains.

And they gobble land. Zycher says that to achieve the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal would require a land mass 15 percent larger than the entire state of California.

As for preventing global warming, the author says the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal, even under highly favorable assumptions, would reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by about 0.173 degrees Celsius. He also notes that research suggests that of the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperatures since 1850 that mankind is responsible for only about half a degree.

Never mind the number of migratory birds killed every year by wind and solar power plants.

Meanwhile, Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writing in The Wall Street Journal, points out that one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic, while solar power requires even more cement, steel, glass and other metals, which require massive earth moving by fossil-fuel powered heavy equipment.

Is this really what we should be doing with our public lands?

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.

(Reuters pix via National Review)

Newspaper column: Higher taxes will not solve education woes

It’s never enough.

Despite lawmakers funding 3 percent teacher raises in this year’s legislative session and lawmakers increasing taxes by $750 million a year in 2015 to fund public education, the Clark County teachers’ union is launching a petition campaign that would ask voters statewide to increase taxes by $1 billion a year for public education.

The Clark County Education Association told the news media it has not yet decided specifically whose ox it intends to gore, but its members have voted to increase their union dues to fund a $2 million petition drive.

“We believe that there (are) revenue streams out there that can be increased to the tune of generating $1 billion more for public education a year on top of what we’re currently funding,” the Las Vegas newspaper quoted John Vellardita, executive director of the union, as saying. “We believe that whatever tax that may be that we land on, it’s got to be supported by the public and the public has to be assured that it’s going to the schools.”

To move whatever tax proposition the union comes up with forward the union and its backers must gather signatures amounting to 10 percent of the votes cast in the latest general election — in this case about 24,500 signatures in each of the state’s four congressional districts.

The petitions would have to be submitted by November 2020 and then verified by the Secretary of State’s office. If successful, the tax measure would then go before the 2021 Legislature, which could pass the initiative or kick it to the voters on the November 2022 ballot.

The last time such a proposal was put before Nevada voters was in 2014, when the Nevada State Education Association pushed a margin tax on businesses that it said would raise about $800 million a year in additional funding for K-12 education.

The measure went down in flames, with 78.8 percent of voters voting no. That’s nearly a 4-to-1 margin.

The problem with throwing more money at education and expecting Nevada’s cellar-dwelling education evaluations to improve is that it’s already been tried and found wanting. Since 1960 Nevada has tripled inflation-adjusted public education funding, but college entrance exam scores have actually fallen slightly.

According to the National Education Association, in the 2017-18 school year Nevada educators’ average salaries ranked 26th in the nation. For the past four years Nevada high schoolers had the lowest composite ACT scores in the nation, according to a recent Las Vegas newspaper account. Only 14 states require all students to take the exam. Nevada was the lowest amoung those 14, too.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2015 only three states fared more poorly than Nevada in fourth grade mathematics proficiency.

If one has poorly performing employees, simply paying them more is not likely to improve their productivity.

While the teacher unions keep pressing for higher salaries and funding in general, they have been fighting tooth-and-nail every effort to toughen teacher evaluations and tie compensation to performance in the classroom.

A state law passed in 2011 established teacher evaluations and fully 50 percent of evaluations were to be based on pupil growth or improvement in testing scores over the course of a school year. At some point it was reduced to 40 percent, then in this past legislative session a bill was passed and signed by the governor dropping pupil growth to only 15 percent of an evaluation.

Evaluations are not all that rigorous to begin with. According to the Nevada Department of Education, in the 2017-2018 school year only 25 out of nearly 20,000 teachers in Nevada were evaluated as “ineffective.” That’s 0.1 percent. Another 1.3 percent were pegged as “developing,” while 80 percent were rated “effective” and 16.7 percent were rated “highly effective.” The rest were exempt from being evaluated.

The scores varied wildly from county to county. More than half the teachers in Storey and Eureka were rated “highly effective,” while less than 5 percent were awarded that rating in Lander and Pershing. In 12 counties there were no “ineffective” teachers whatsoever.

Tougher evaluations linked to compensation, not throwing still more money at public education is what is needed. So, if approached sometime in the future and asked to sign a petition to raise taxes to improve public education, we recommend you politely decline.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Teachers protest at a Las Vegas high school earlier this year. (R-J file pix)

Editorial: Conscience rule for doctors just needs a rewrite

Despite what some have implied, a recent decision by a New York federal judge striking down the so-called “conscience rule” promulgated by the Trump administration is not a license to pressgang doctors and nurses into performing procedures abhorrent to their consciences — such as abortions, contraception and gender transitioning procedures.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer sided with plaintiffs, including the state of Nevada, in declaring the rule unenforceable as written, saying it was unconstitutionally coercive because it would have required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold billions of dollars in funding from hospitals, clinics, universities and others that did not comply. As the judge pointed out in his ruling, “Nevada, for example, received more than $2.6 billion in federal health care funding from HHS in the 2018 federal fiscal year.”

Judge Engelmayer wrote, “The Conscience Provisions recognize and protect undeniably important rights. The Court’s decision today leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions.”

But he concluded, “Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it.”

It was the enforcement mechanism not the “conscience rule” that was tossed. The Trump administration needs to rewrite the rule.

It is the procedures that matter, not whether the patient is gay, lesbian, transgender or whatever.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford put out a press release about the New York ruling saying, “My office has opposed every attempt by the Trump Administration to diminish the rights and needs of Nevadans, and access to health care is no exception. Had this rule gone forward, it would have allowed individuals and entire institutions to deny lawful and medically necessary care to patients, even during emergency situations. I’m encouraged that the courts have blocked yet another attempt to implement a discriminatory rule.”

It is hard to envision an emergency abortion or gender altering procedure.

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, which bills itself as the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty for all Americans, put out a statement warning, “This decision leaves health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience. The Trump Administration’s HHS protections would ensure that healthcare professionals are free to work consistent with their religious beliefs while providing the best care to their patients.”

In fact, another federal judge, Texas U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, recently vacated an Obama-era federal regulation that would have required healthcare providers and insurers to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions even if they go against their medical judgment or violate religious convictions.

The Christian Post quoted Nick Reaves, legal counsel at Becket Law, which touts itself as being a defender of religious freedom, as saying, “Doctors shouldn’t have to choose between giving up their faith and being forced out of their profession. In a diverse and free society, we can ensure that everyone will receive needed care without punishing doctors for having a conscience.”

Yes, that should be the case. HHS just needs to quickly rewrite the rule with less onerous enforcement provisions to protect Nevada’s and the nation’s medical professionals from being forced to act against their beliefs.

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.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, at a National Day of Prayer service in the White House Rose Garden earlier this year. Pence advocated religious exemptions for health care workers. Getty Images pix via NYT)

Newspaper column: Nevada needs a law allowing police to cooperate with ICE

A ruling by a federal judge in California has put law enforcement agencies in Nevada and much of the nation in legal jeopardy if they hold prisoners, who are in the country illegally, for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for potential deportation.

The ruling by Central California U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birrote Jr. in September held that it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unwarranted search and seizure to hold a prisoner until an ICE agent is available to take that prisoner into custody — unless the detention is expressly authorized by state law.

Judge Birrote wrote, “A fundamental tenet of federalism requires states to determine the powers and responsibilities of their own officers and any attempt to subvert states’ control over their law enforcement runs afoul of the Tenth Amendment. … Thus, even where federal law permits state or local officers to make civil immigration arrests, the authority for such arrests must come from state law.”

Though Arizona and a few other states have such laws, Nevada does not.

As a result, a couple of weeks ago the head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which covers the jurisdictions of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County, announced his agency was suspending its formal agreement with ICE — called a 287(g) program — to detain prisoners for pickup by the federal agency. The sheriffs in Nye and Lyon counties also have 287(g) agreements but they have not said what their plans are yet. Other jurisdictions may not have formal agreements but may still cooperate with ICE.

In announcing the change in policy, Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo said his agency will “continue to work with ICE at the Clark County Detention Center in removing persons without legal status who have committed violent crimes,” according to The Nevada Independent.

ICE’s deputy field office director in Las Vegas, Dana L. Fishburn, issued a statement saying, “Clark County’s decision to suspend its 287(g) program will only benefit criminals. Recent California legislation regarding detainers is irrelevant, and is an excuse to justify a decision that will impact the safety of our communities here in Nevada.”

The potential threat to local enforcement agencies who cooperate with ICE was spelled out in a press release from the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California at the time of the ruling. It quoted Ruben Loyo, senior litigation attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center as saying, “For over a decade now ICE has been systematically violating the Fourth Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of individuals each year through its detainers. This ruling should be yet another reminder to law enforcement that if you comply with detainers you too will be held liable.”

ICE Acting Director Matt Albence warned that the ruling will endanger the public and called it “judicial overreach.” According to Fox News, in the past year ICE deported more than 145,000 illegal immigrants, of those approximately 70 percent occurred through detainer requests made to state and local jails and prisons.

“This conclusion is out of step with the realities of modern law enforcement, endangers the public and construes probable cause in an unfairly restrictive way,” Albence said. “Moreover, this decision, issued by a single judge in Los Angeles will impact at least 43 states, threatening communities far beyond the one in which this judge sits.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona it is business as usual. State law allows county sheriffs “the authority to develop their own protocol consistent with the law,” Ryan Anderson, a spokesman with the Arizona attorney general’s office, told Cronkite News, adding that the law bars detention of people for “longer than necessary” on suspicion of being here illegally. This gives local law enforcement discretion, but one Arizona sheriff said he would hold those in the country illegally for immigration agents only if they are picked up immediately.

Lest some Nevada sheriff or police chief gets dragged into court for holding a potentially dangerous illegal immigrant an extra 20 minutes while waiting for an ICE agent, Gov. Steve Sisolak should call the Legislature into special session to quickly pass a law similar to the one in Arizona.

While we’ll not hold our breaths waiting for the Democratic governor or the Democratic majorities of both chambers of the Legislature to act on behalf of public safety over the convenience of illegal immigrants, it would be the right thing to do.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Metro Sheriff Joe Lombardo (AP file pix)

Editorial: Time to bring wild horse population under control

The Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board met in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 31 and came up with a list of recommendations for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service on how to curb the exploding wild horse and burro populations on the public land in 10 Western states.

On a vote of eight in favor with one member abstaining, the advisory panel recommended, “The Advisory Board recognizes the value of and supports ongoing research and funding of humane long-term fertility control and permanent sterilization as viable tools in our quest to achieve a thriving ecological balance by achieving and maintaining AML (appropriate management level).”

There are about 90,000 wild horses and burros on the range, though the BLM estimates the range can adequately support less than 27,000.

According to a United Press International account, the permanent sterilization proposals includes the use of a surgical procedure called “ovariectomy via colpotomy” — in which a metal rod is inserted into the mare severing the horse’s ovaries.

A year ago, veterinary researchers at Colorado State University withdrew from a plan to use the technique at a mass-spaying event in Oregon. The university backed off after being attacked in the press by self-styled animal rights activists who called the practice “barbaric.”

Days before the advisory board meeting a group of 78 veterinarians sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt asking that some other method of fertility control be used because ovariectomy via colpotomy is “far more invasive, inhumane, and risky than other non-surgical methods of fertility control …”

But, according to information posted on a BLM website explaining the procedure and its planned use, ovariectomy via colpotomy has been used for more than 100 years on domestic horses. It takes approximately 15 minutes per mare, is performed under standing sedation and there are no external incisions that could increase the risk of infection.

The website says that it takes about one week for the mare to recover and be returned to the range, and previous use on feral mares shows a less than 2 percent mortality rate. Also the cost per mare is less than the $300 it costs for one dose of PZP-22, a chemical fertility drug delivered by darting. The darting must be repeated, while the surgical method lasts a lifetime.

The BLM also explained why spaying is more effective than gelding.

“With vasectomy or gelding, there is little to no expected reduction in growth rates until a critical threshold in the percentage of stallions treated has been reached — although this exact number is unknown, according to one peer-reviewed research paper, 80% or more of stallions may need to be treated in order to stabilize wild horse populations just due to the fact that a single stallion can impregnate many mares on the range,” the agency says. “Logistically and financially, this is not practical. In one well-studied herd, about 14 percent of stallions with a harem were 4 years old or less when they first held their harem. Therefore, to reliably prevent males from impregnating mares, BLM would need to conduct gathers every 3 years just to geld or vasectomize nearly all the young males.”

Congress has for years blocked funding that would allow captured wild horses and burros to be sold for slaughter in Canada and Mexico.

There are currently 50,000 feral horses and burros being held in pens and private pastures at a cost of $50,000 each over their lifetimes.

UPI reports that BLM acting director, William Pendley, plans to ask Congress for $5 billion over the next 15 years — about $3,750 per animal per year — to bring population levels down. Getting the populations under control is the only way to stanch the ongoing hemorrhage of tax money.

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.

Wild horses on the range. (BLM pix)