Nevada: Lawmakers made state safer by addressing gun violence

The 2019 Nevada legislative session was historic in terms of its diversity of representation, with women holding majorities in both chambers of a state legislature for the first time in the nation’s history.

But lawmakers made even more history by passing a number of bills that will improve the lives of Nevadans, including new laws on gun safety. These measures, some of which passed with bipartisan support, had been strongly supported by progressive activists for years.

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Editorial: Nevada Democrats exert power in passing gun safety law

Despite the needless rush to pass the bill, it’s good to see Nevada act, although other states have passed bolder initiatives, such as Washington’s plan to raise the minimum age for buying semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and enact stronger gun storage requirements.

No one is under the illusion that SB 143 will prevent all gun violence, accidental gun deaths and suicide by firearms. But closing the gun show loophole is an obvious place to start exercising a little control over the reckless gun culture in Nevada, which allows people who wouldn’t pass a background check to mosey on down to their local gun show and buy whatever they please. If some people are inconvenienced a bit, that’s a small price to pay for our collective safety.

Nevada AG on background check law: 'I'm proud to say the wait is over.'

'Since 2016, Nevadans awaited the implementation of common-sense gun background checks, and today, I'm proud to say that their wait is over,' said AG Ford. 'This is dedicated to the many Nevadans who have lost a friend, family member or coworker to preventable acts of violence. The senseless tragedy in Parkland almost a year ago to the day is just one of many acts of violence that spurred this meaningful public safety bill. It is my hope that today will be remembered as a day of action, when Nevada chose to be a part of the solution to gun violence.'

On Tuesday, legislators heard more than eight hours worth of testimony on SB 143 during a Joint Meeting of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary and the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary. This included testimony from AG Ford, who discussed his desire to carry out the will of the people by implementing this critical public safety measure.

Democrats make good on background check law three years in the making

From Colton Lochhead, Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Democrats, with a near-supermajority, made good on one of their biggest campaign promises of 2018 in passing Senate Bill 143, which was signed into law Friday afternoon by Gov. Steve Sisolak. The bill tweaks the original language of Question 1, which relied on forcing the FBI to conduct the background checks. The new bill instead allows the state to conduct those checks once the language goes into effect on Jan. 2, 2020.

The second week of the 2019 Nevada Legislature resembled something more akin to a rehashing of the 2016 campaign for the original ballot measure. Democrats say the law will save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Republicans chided it as an infringement on Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights and will do little to nothing to reduce gun violence.

Nevada background check legislation passes Senate Judiciary Committee

Yesterday SB 143 - Nevada’s background check bill that LEAP Forward has been tracking and grading - was heard in and passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee after a hearing local media almost universally referred to as “contentious.” High-ranking state officials testified in favor of the legislation: From KTVN:

Nevada's Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, told lawmakers the bill is a priority to him and looks forward to signing it into law if it's brought to his desk. He says gun violence is not an easy issue to solve, but most state residents support gun background checks.
  
State Attorney General Aaron Ford also spoke in support of the legislation. He says requiring background checks on private gun sales are particularly important due to the online gun market.

The bill is a logical extension of something voters already approve of at the polls in 2016 when they voted in favor of Question 1, a background check initiative that ran into some jurisdictional issues and was never fully enforced. Instead of putting the onus on the federal government, SB 143 makes background checks the responsibility of the state. From Patrick Walker, Las Vegas Now:

"If we, as law-abiding sellers, know we have to conduct a background check, it will be much harder for the person to leave the dealer and find a way to buy a gun without a background check," said William Rosen, presenting SB 143.

Then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt declared the law unenforceable -- and supporters say this bill will fix that, along with enacting the will of the people.

"This is not meant to be a punitive measure; it's a safety measure," said Donna West, supports the bill. "We want to protect Nevada families." 

Republicans and the NRA called the hearing “rushed” and “a secret” despite large crowds showing up at the proper place and time, and fell back on familiar arguments in favor of doing nothing. From James DeHaven, Reno Gazette Journal:

"This bill is nothing more than feel-good legislation that does absolutely nothing to protect Nevadans," said Lyon County Commissioner Ken Gray. "Address the root causes, one of which is lack of access to mental health care."

Steve Johnston, a licensed firearms dealer in Reno, agreed. He said the Legislature could better protect the public by passing legislation to allow students to carry weapons on college campuses.

The bill now goes to the full Senate, where a vote could come as early as today. LEAP Forward will continue to track and grade action on this legislation, and is scoring support.

Background check legislation on fast track in Nevada

Background check legislation introduced today in Nevada could be law by the end of the week and go into effect in 2020. Committee hearings are expected to begin tomorrow on SB 143, a new bill that mirrors an initiative approved by voters but never codified. The FBI refused to comply with the state-level initiative, so now Democrats are seeking to put the state in charge.

“The legislation itself is exactly what was approved by the voters,” Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson told reporters after the bill was introduced. “We didn’t put anything extra in it, we didn’t take anything out of it.”

The law does carve out exemptions related to antique firearms and tranfers between family members, but the legislative wording is strong enough that passage should fulfill one of the four main loopholes in the state’s gun laws identified by the Giffords Law Center. The legislative process will begin tomorrow.

Atkinson said the bill would go through the normal legislative process. A joint hearing on it in front of the Senate and Assembly Judiciary committees is scheduled for Tuesday morning. Atkinson said the Senate could vote on the measure Wednesday.

Speakers at the hearing are expected to be limited to two minutes each but there will be no limit on the number of speakers.

SB 143 would be a huge step forward in strengthening Nevada’s gun laws, and LEAP Forward will continue to track the bill and score support.