(Don Turner, Nevada Firearms Coalition) – As one of the people directly named in the public records request of the Attorney regarding Ballot Initiative One (Question 1), I wanted to share the history behind and why it would make a great case study in how NOT to propose and enact legislation. It was first proposed as a “mental health bill” in the Nevada 2013 legislative session, but during the session, it morphed into a “universal background check” that was patterned after similar bills promoted and paid for by NYC Michael Bloomberg in Oregon and Washington.
After failing to enact this bill at a national level, Mr. Bloomberg decided the only way to get his goals accomplished to establish a national gun registry was state by state. Having been opposed by Nevada Sheriffs in 2013 as UNENFORCEABLE and vetoed by the Governor, whose veto was not overridden in 2015, it was decided by Bloomberg’s Nevada consultants that a ballot initiative was the only way to get this done. So in 2015, ballot signature gatherers were bussed in from Oregon, Washington, and other places to solicit the necessary signatures for a ballot initiative that was the same language of the failed 2013 bill that was UNENFORCEABLE. Over a million dollars was spent to obtain these signatures, and it was certified by the Secretary of State for the 2016 general election ballot.
Also in 2015, the legislature amended NRS 202.254 that allowed for voluntary background checks between firearms sellers, to provide this service with no charge. Under state law, it is already a felony for a prohibited possessor to have possession of a firearm and a crime for a person to knowingly give a firearm to a prohibited possessor.
When the ballot initiative was placed on the ballot, gun rights activists in Nevada formed the Nevadans for State Gun Rights PAC to oppose this UNENFORCEABLE initiative. Working with the NRA-ILA, the public was warned about the unenforceability of this bill and its impact upon citizen rights. The bill was marketed as a cheap and easy to “keep bad guys from getting guns,” which in fact was not a problem. A “freedom of information” request to Clark County DA Wolfson (a supporter of Q 1) revealed that in 2013 and 2014, ZERO prosecutions were made against people giving guns to “bad guys.”
If there was no documented problem with good guys giving bad guys guns, then what was so important about this legislation that caused Michael Bloomberg to spend over 20 million dollars (money that could have been better spent for the Saint Jude’s Children Center or other needy charities) to get this legislation passed? Looking at the details of the bill, the answer is readily apparent. Gun owners could only transfer firearms if they did the transaction by taking their gun to federal firearms dealer, having it put on their store inventory, and record the sale on federal form 4473, and then transferred from the dealer to the receiver. By federal law, these forms stay with the dealer. There were, however, bills introduced in Congress to have this date placed in a national database. Using elementary logic, it is safe to assume that the reason for the “universal background check” was not to prevent good guys from giving bad guys guns, but to set up a national gun registry.
The problem with this strategy in Nevada, was that when the Brady Act was passed, each state had to decide if they wanted to maintain their own criminal history database and have background checks done through their state database (point of contact), or just let the dealers do the checks direct through the National Instant Check System (NICS). Thirteen states including Nevada decided to do their own background checks and also check the NICS system before authorizing a retail transfer of a firearm. The rest of the states went direct from the dealer to NICS. In fact, the states that use their own database are a more comprehensive background check than the NICS database because it includes state crimes that put criminals on the prohibited possessor list. In plain language, it is more accurate and more responsive to the voters of Nevada.
The question then is “why did the Bloomberg initiative require NICS direct and not use the state system?” There are two possible answers: Ignorance, OR to avoid the Nevada system. By avoiding the Nevada system, they avoided having to tell the voters that Nevada charges $25.00 for a background check, thereby making it appear that Q 1 was free. As Q 1 only passed by less than 10,000 votes, the assumption is that they wanted to avoid a fiscal impact that would create voter resistance. Another consequence was by completely rewriting NRS 202.254 with Q 1 the ability for citizens to do voluntary background checks was eliminated.
During the time frame leading up to the voting, all by one Nevada Sheriff and the State Attorney General kept telling everyone that Q 1 was UNENFORCEABLE. Now that the initiative passed and the FBI told the state that Nevada is a point of contact state and they will only accept background checks from the state, and the law says that background checks can only be done through dealers via NICS direct, the backers of Q 1 are blaming everyone except themselves for the UNENFORCEABILITY of the new law. They were told over and over and over and over again that the Initiative and the law was UNENFORCEABLE all the way back to 2013. They have a problem they created and it can’t be touched for three years. In the meantime, the good citizens of Nevada no longer can run voluntary background checks if they want to sell their guns. Now they are claiming some kind of conspiracy because they failed.
This is just one of the many reasons why citizen participation in our government is essential. The Nevada Firearms Coalition and its PAC continue to have a full-time legislative presence to ensure that both sides of the conversation are represented as new laws are being considered and discussed.