(Ann Knowles/Nevada News Bureau) – Thanks to a letter written by a concerned citizen, Nevada owners of a concealed weapons (CCW) permit may soon be able to purchase more firearms without further background checks and the associated $25 fee.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, also commonly referred to as ATF) is reviewing legislation passed this last session to determine if Nevada again qualifies for an exemption from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. If the legislation meets BATFE requirements, the federal agency will issue an open letter to Nevada federal firearms licensees, or dealers, informing them a CCW permit will now suffice for firearm purchases.
For Nevada gun owners, that means they will forego additional background checks and the associated $25 fee charged by the state, as long as they can produce a valid CCW permit when purchasing a firearm.
A BATFE spokeswoman confirmed that the agency is reviewing the Nevada law, but could not say if or when the exemption would be granted.
“All we’re trying to do is talk to the ATF and make sure they have everything they need,” said Frank Adams, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association (NSCA) in Mesquite.
“We’re expecting an answer shortly. I don’t have a crystal ball.”
The NSCA initially said it would contact BATFE via a formal letter, but at its July meeting the group opted to delay action until its September meeting at the request of the sheriffs of Clark and Washoe counties, said Adams.
“They wanted to study the impact because they anticipate a huge influx of new applications,” he said.
In the meantime, a private citizen associated with the Stillwater Firearms Association, a Fallon-based advocacy group, sent a letter to the ATF, which contacted him to say it was reviewing the new law passed by the state, according to J.L. Rhodes, legislative action committee chairman for the association.
“They called to say thank you,” said Rhodes.
Rhodes said he called the Nevada Department of Public Safety to see what the holdup was on contacting the ATF to trigger a review and was told that the ATF was already taking action based on the private citizen’s letter.
“It was left up to an individual to send the letter,” said Carrie Herbertson, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, who said the NSCA dragged its feet on the matter. “That’s one powerful letter.”
Nevada lost its exemption from the NICS checks in 2008 when it failed to pass legislation that would have brought the state into compliance. An earlier audit by the BATFE showed that not all of the state’s sheriff offices were conducting proper background checks and that state law did not require the checks on permit renewals.
In 2005, the state’s 17 sheriffs’ offices signed a Memorandum of Understanding saying they would comply with BATFE requirements until legislation could be enacted in the 2007 legislative session, allowing the state to hang onto its exemption until then.
The Nevada legislature, though, failed to pass the needed legislation in 2007 so, in 2008, the BATFE said the state no longer qualified for the exemption.
Since then, CCW permit holders have had to go through a background check for each firearm purchase and, because Nevada acted as a point of contact (POC) and used the state’s criminal records database, had to pay a $25 fee. Background checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for states that opt not to be POCs are free.
No action was taken during the 2009 legislative, but this past session Assembly Bill 282 passed. The bill includes the language making the process for initial applications and renewals the same and is expected to satisfy the BATFE’s rules for exemption from the NICS checks. The only thing left is for the BATFE to review the bill, give its stamp of approval and inform dealers that they can now accept CCW permits as an alternative to NICS checks.
But the granting of the NICS exemption may not be the end of the issue. According to the NRA’s Herbertson, at least one Nevada state legislator is looking into why the state charges a $25 fee for the check it will be required to do on initial applications and 5-year renewals even with the exemption.
“The $25 fee is absurd,” said Herbertson, who says that many other so-called POC states charge less. She said she believed the charges for the NICS checks were $2 in Virginia, $7.50 in Utah and $10.50 in Oregon, for example.
Nevada is one of 21 states that act as a POC, according to the BATFE web site. In the rest of the states, dealers go through the FBI for free checks. Herbertson said several states are now trying to back out of their POC status, but this year only Delaware was successful in dropping it.