LAS VEGAS — A Nevada state lawmaker, a church pastor, a former Las Vegas sheriff and a women’s shelter official launched a signature-gathering drive Monday to put a gun purchase background check initiative on the 2016 statewide ballot.
State Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, invoked the memory of the December 2012 mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Bill Young, who served as Clark County sheriff from 2003-2007, recalled shootings at other schools, military bases, hospitals — as well as the slaying of two Las Vegas police officers last June at a pizza shop near a Walmart store where their two assailants were killed.
“They’re almost commonplace anymore,” Young, now a casino security executive in Las Vegas, said of mass shootings. He said he owns dozens of guns, and is a strong believer in the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
He called the Nevadans for Background Checks proposal a “common-sense, level-the-playing-field” measure.
“Anyone that has an interest in peace in the community has to have an interest in how guns get into the hands of individuals,” Victory Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Robert Fowler said.
Jones told reporters at a news conference at Fowler’s church in the West Las Vegas neighborhood that the proposed initiative would differ from a measure that he sponsored and the 2013 Legislature passed as SB221 before it was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Sandoval spokeswoman Mari Nakashima St. Martin didn’t immediately say whether the governor had a comment about the proposed initiative.
“We know that background checks help keep guns out of the hands of felons and dangerously mentally ill folks,” Jones said.
Jones pointed to what he called the 86 percent of some 500 Nevadans who told a poll last year that they supported background checks for gun purchasers.
The polling firm, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, sometimes releases results for advocacy groups and others with vested interests. Jones said it had been commissioned for the March 2013 survey by Nevada Senate Democrats.
The lawmaker declared that in states with background checks, fewer women and fewer police were shot to death.
He said the Nevada initiative would follow federal rules for sales involving licensed gun dealers and close loopholes in existing state law.
Nevada requires criminal and mental health background checks for buyers making gun purchases from licensed dealers, but not for purchases from private sellers or exhibitors at gun shows.
The proposed initiative would also let Nevadans sell or give a legally purchased gun to a family member without a background check, and include what Jones called “common-sense exemptions for hunting, sporting and self-defense loans of guns.”
“It’s not fair, frankly, that you can walk into a Walmart and be required to undergo background check, but if you walk out the doors and sell a gun in a parking lot of a Walmart you have no requirement to undergo a background check,” Jones said.
Safe Nest community relations chief Lisa Lynn Chapman was first to sign the initiative with Jones, Fowler, Young. She called gun violence in domestic violence cases a serious threat to women and children who take refuge at the Las Vegas shelter.
Nevada Secretary of State’s office spokeswoman Catherine Lu said the petition-gatherers have until Nov. 11 to collect almost 102,000 signatures to qualify for a statewide vote in two years.