A bill that would impose background checks on everyone purchasing a gun was voted out of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, despite protests from Republican members who said it goes too far.
The vote was 4-3 with majority Democrats backing passage of Senate Bill 221. It would require background checks for all gun transactions — even those between private parties.
“My constituents look at this as a de facto gun-registry bill,” said Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.
Fellow Republicans Michael Roberson of Henderson and Ben Kieckhefer of Reno said they support the provisions aimed at keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill. Kieckhefer, who had a bill with that intent himself, joined Goicoechea in suggesting the measure creates a gun registry by mandating that dealers maintain sales records for 20 years.
Roberson said he doesn’t think the bill as written would be enforceable because no one could track private gun sales.
He called on sponsor Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, to consider amendments that deal with “straw purchases” — buyers who agree to buy a gun for someone who is not allowed to have a weapon. He also suggested eliminating the $30 fee for background checks to encourage more people to agree to them.
Finance Chairman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said Jones has worked hard to accommodate those with objections and made several changes to the original bill.
She said Jones can work with the parties to see if more amendments can be made but that she wanted to move the bill to the floor for a vote.
Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, agreed.
“I’m tired of pushing things off,” he said, adding that the bill will never be perfect in some people’s eyes.
People urging passage of Jones’ bill included parents of those slain in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., the wife of a National Guardsman killed in the Carson City IHOP massacre, and a man shot in the head at the shooting of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz.
“You’re never going to be able to stop all the gun violence or prevent every shooting that occurs, but anything we can do to cut down the odds or chances of it occurring again is something that needs to be done,” said Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting last year.
More than 2 million people have been denied when trying to purchase a gun since the federal government began requiring background checks on guns purchased from licensed dealers over the past 15 years, Jones said.
“If you expand it to private-party sales, necessarily, you’re going to prevent more criminals, more domestic violence perpetrators and more of those that have been adjudicated mentally defective from purchasing firearms,” Jones said. “You can’t deny that.”
The bill also would require psychiatrists to report if mentally ill people make a specific threat toward themselves or someone else, and would add defendants whose court cases end with a finding of mentally ill to the list of people prohibited from having firearms.
The bill goes to the Senate floor for a vote.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.