Reno – In 2016, Ballot Question 1 passed a popular vote in Nevada and in effect would have prohibited the sale of guns between individuals in the state without conducting a background check, but following the election, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt issued an opinion that rendered the voter approved law unenforceable for lack of administrative support from the federal and state governments, and thereby, the “unenforceable” status means citizens cannot be prosecuted for not complying with the act.
Hear an audio interview with John Saludes, vice chair of the Nevada Gun Safety Coalition …
For John Saludes and the coalition’s 16 members, Laxalt’s decision was a blow, a disregard for the popular, democratic will of the people, but now that Democrat Steve Sisolak is governor and Democrat Aaron Ford is attorney general and Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, Saludes expects to see legislation in the 2019 session that will implement an amended version of the scuttled Question 1.
“It (Ballot Question 1) was stalled by Governor Sandoval and attorney general at that time Laxalt. Now they are out of the picture, and I am told that we are going to, that there is talk, and there is probably some legislation that I am not totally aware of, but I am told that it may pass in this Legislative session.”
North Las Vegas Democrat Kelvin Atkinson is Senate Majority Leader and submitted Bill Draft Request 755 in early December of last year, a request to draft a bill that would, “Revise provisions relating to background checks for certain purchases or transfers of firearms.”
The Legislative Counsel Bureau is currently drafting Senator Atkinson’s request, and details are forthcoming, but the legislative path for a background check bill is clear. Governor Sisolak has expressed support for enhanced background checks on gun purchases.
In addition to expanding background checks to comply with the intent of Ballot Question 1, the Gun Safety Coalition is looking for a 2019 bill that would institute what is known as a High or Extreme Risk Protection Order. These “red flag” laws as they are known enable family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to prevent a person from purchasing or possessing a firearm if they are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Thirteen states have enacted Extreme Risk Protection Order laws.
“The other thing that we are supporting is the High Risk Protection Order, which is addressed toward people in crisis that may be a danger to themselves or others, and it allows for protection order to be obtained from the court,” Saludes said. “Also, if there are guns present in this person’s custody or control, they can be temporarily removed by law enforcement. Once the crisis is over, they can have their guns back.”
Bill Draft Request language is oftentimes vague, and so far for the 2019 session there does not seem to be a High Risk Protection Order bill in the pipeline, but Saludes is confident the issue will be addressed in Nevada’s 80th Legislature under Democratic leadership.
Gauging Mental Fitness
Determining the mental health of a gun buyer is a difficult task, and without an adequate system of background checks, gun dealers are the final line of defense against mentally ill citizens buying guns.
“We have some anecdotal evidence that respected gun dealers, particularly federal licensed gun dealers, they are very cognizant of what their responsibility is, and they won’t sell to somebody they feel is in crisis, so we count on them as a line of defense, but we also look to the fact that, if they’re trying to buy a weapon, they need to be run through a background check,” Saludes said.
“You probably know that if they go to a gun show or they buy online or from a third party, there’s no requirement right now,” Saludes continued. “If this bill does pass on the gun check measure, that’ll be plugged in Nevada. We hope it would be done on a national level, but unfortunately Congress and the Senate moved too slow, so we’re trying to do something here in Nevada. I’m pretty confident it’s gonna pass. I’m hopeful the high risk protection order bill will pass. There’s also another bill to ban bump-stocks in Nevada. We’re not waiting for the national level.”
Another concern for Saludes is the possibility of a bill to arm teachers.
“There are about eight (school safety) bills that have been requested. We don’t know what they look like right now because they’ve been requested and don’t have the actual bill information, but we’re hopeful that there aren’t any of those six bills. There’s not going to be any scenario where people want to arm teachers.”
Of the school safety Bill Draft Requests, two appear brightly on the Gun Coalition’s radar. In the Assembly, Minority Floor Leader, Republican Jim Wheeler has submitted a BDR that “Revises provisions relating to school safety.” In the Senate, Senate Minority Leader, Republican James Settelmeyer, as Minority Leader, submitted a BDR that would also “Revises provisions relating to school safety.” Both lawmakers are from Douglas County and noted gun rights advocates.
John Saludes said he’s looking forward to the upcoming Legislative Session and was quick to emphasize the grass-roots lobbying potential of the coalition of groups intent on reforming Nevada’s gun laws.
“In our coalition, we have sixteen members. They’re nonprofits in and of themselves. A lot of them are with the medical association, with the health association, Nevada Women’s Lobby, a number of these different organizations. They have a bunch of supporters to support them, and those supporters along with our supporters basically have the ability to lobby our legislature, hold events, and basically do everything we can for common sense gun safety legislation.”