(David Mansdoerfer) – It’s a safe bet that when government makes a mistake it will be on the side of increasing its revenue at the expense of tax and fee payers. It’s just as safe a bet that it will drag its feet when correcting that error.
Just ask Nevada gun owners with concealed weapons permits (CCW). CCW holders in Nevada have been forced to pay an unnecessary $25 fee during the last three years as a result of inaction on the part of the state Legislature and the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association (NvSCA).
Until 2005, CCW permit holders in Nevada enjoyed an exemption from the $25 National Instant Background Check System (NICS) when purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer (FFL). (In other states, there is a toll-free 800 number provided by the federal government that can be used for free background checks.) In 2005, however, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (BATFE) issued a notice toNevadastating it must make changes to comply with federal regulations to maintain this exemption. Specifically, Nevada law would have to be changed to require NICS checks for CCW renewals and those NICS checks would have to include a check of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement databases for applicants who are notU.S.citizens.
Knowing that the Nevada Legislature meets only once every two years, the BATFE entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the sheriffs of Nevada assuming that the necessary adjustments would be made during the next legislative cycle. In essence, this MOU temporarily extended the NICS exemption for CCW permit holders until the end of the 2007 legislative cycle.
Accordingly, in 2007, the NvSCA helped draft AB21 which would have brought Nevada law into compliance with BATFE regulations and fully restored the NICS exemption for CCW permit holders. However, included in the language of the bill was a fee hike on CCW permits that raised initial applicant fees from $60 to $125 and renewal fees from $25 to $125. While these fees were negotiated down in a compromise, then-Governor Jim Gibbons promised to veto any bill that raised fees. As a result, AB21 never passed out of committee and never got a vote.
In 2008, due to the failure of the legislature to amend Nevada law to comply with federal requirements, BATFE stripped Nevada of its NICS exemption.
The NICS exemption was again brought up in the halls of the NevadaLegislature in 2011. AB282, which many will remember as Speaker John Oceguera’s bill that plagiarized the ideas of several legislators, was passed and signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval. AB282, which went into effect July 1st, brought Nevada law into line with federal requirements.
Since Nevada law is now in compliance with federal regulations, one could assume the NICS exemption has been restored. One would be wrong.
Working to restore the exemption is the Stillwater Firearms Association. This group has been advocating for the restoration of the NICS exemption for CCW permit holders from the beginning and has developed a three-pronged approach to help restore the exemption: a private citizens’ letter request to BATFE, a Stillwater Firearms (SFA) letter to Governor Sandoval requesting direction to the Nevada Department of Public Safety to submit request to BATFE, and an appeal to all 17 Nevada sheriffs.
However, there are a couple of roadblocks holding up the restoration process.
First, because BATFE doesn’t monitor legislative changes in each state, a request must be made to BATFE to restore the exemption. Stillwater Firearms sent a letter to Governor Sandoval on July 31 requesting his help to restore the NICS exemption. To date, Gov. Sandoval, according to our sources, has requested Chris Perry, acting Director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), to request the waiver from BATFE. Unfortunately for 2nd Amendment advocates, Perry has failed to do so.
Second, the delay is related to the appeal to the 17 Nevada sheriffs. When the NvSCA met on July 21, they failed to conduct a vote on the exemption and pushed off the issue until their September meeting, citing the need to analyze the impact it would have. The problem with this delay, however, is that NvSCA approval is unnecessary. Nowhere in the BATFE rules and regulations on the NICS exemption does it state that local law enforcement organizations, such as the NvSCA, have any authority in this process. However, even though they have no vested authority in this process, by not issuing a letter to the BATFE, the NvSCA is signaling that the sheriffs of Nevada have no interest in restoring the exemption. As the sheriffs of Nevada implement this exemption, the BATFE would be less likely to restore the exemption without their approval.
The NvSCA may be holding up the approval because of revenue. NICS checks have accounted for $1.7 million so far in 2011 alone. However, the important thing to remember is that they have no clear authority over this process and their obstruction has delayed the exemption reinstatement, unnecessarily costing CCW holders.
The Stillwater Firearms Association promptly sent a letter requesting the NvSCA asking the BATFE to reinstate the NICS exemption. NvSCA Executive Director Frank Adams had the following response.
Mr. XXXX, I find interesting for individuals like yourself to make a
statement as you did without knowing the all the circumstances of the
issue with BATFE. Since this affects all the Sheriffs in the state and
they are the ones that must administer the CCW program, they must all
agree to move forward with this request. BATFE santioned [sic] all of them
in 2004 because a couple did not comply with rules BATFE changed
without tell [sic] the Sneriffs,[sic] so as soon as all the Sheriffs are ready to
move forward with this request, they will do so. Just because the
legislature changed the law does not mean that BATFE will reinstate the
exemption. There is nothing in federal law that says they havel [sic] do it.
Alll [sic] they ever said was if Nevada changed its laws, they would
consider reinstating the exemption. Knowing the current Washington
Administration, the reinstate [sic] of the exemption is on a done deal. So,
please let the Sheriffs handle this in the proper manner. It is
allways [sic] fullish [sic] to make statements and demands without knowing all the
Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association
From this ‘eloquent’ response, it is clear that Mr. Adams believes that every Sheriff in the state must vote in favor of restoring this exemption. The problem with this is that only the NvSCA believes it has this authority in the first place. When the exemption was initially granted in the 1990s, NvSCA was not involved in the process. Why, then, do they think they should be involved now?
On one side are the NvSCA and acting Director of the Nevada DPS who are obstructing the restoration of the NICS exemption for CCW permit holders. On the other are Nevada’s 50,000+ CCW permittees who are tired of having to pay a fee they should never have been charged in the first place.
If the Nevada Legislature found it important to create a new law to restore this exemption, the power-hungry NvSCA should step aside and grant the lawmakers’ wishes. By obstructing the process for restoring the exemption, the NvSCA has shown that revenue is more important than the will of the people of Nevada. Additionally, it is time that acting Director of DPS Chris Perry decide whether he reports to Governor Sandoval, the Legislature and the people of Nevada, or to a board that has no say in this matter.
(Mr. Mansdoerfer is the Director of Federal Affairs for Citizen Outreach)