Hearing on gun background check petition set

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Carson District Judge James Wilson has set an Aug. 1 hearing on the challenge seeking to block the petition that would mandate background checks for almost all gun sales.

The group Nevadans for Background Checks filed the petition June 20 saying the campaign was spurred by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto of background check legislation passed by the 2013 Legislature.

“An overwhelming majority of Nevadans support expanding criminal background checks to all gun sales and today is the beginning of our fight to make sure their voices are heard on election day,” said Teresa Crawford, an advocate for prevention of gun violence.

But a group of opponents has challenged the language describing what the petition would do. They argue the language mandating background checks is incorrect because the petition refers to a loophole in federal law that mandates background checks for gun sales by licensed dealers but not unlicensed sellers at gun shows, other similar events and on the Internet which account for an estimated 40 percent of sales. They argue that was a conscious decision and shouldn’t be described as a loophole.

They also argue the petition fails to make clear the petition would impose criminal penalties — a gross misdemeanor for a first offense and a Category C felony thereafter — on people “even for a sale between law abiding citizens.”

They said the language should be changed to make it clear to voters “that it criminalizes formerly voluntary conduct.”

The only gun sales that would be allowed without background checks if the petition passes are those between law enforcement agencies, antique firearm family members and executors of estates.

Under the law, the court has just 15 days to hold a hearing on challenges to initiative petitions.

Backers of the petition say polling shows 86 percent of Nevadans support background checks designed to keep criminals and the mentally ill from buying guns. While supporting the right of others to buy guns, they argue the initiative would “keep guns out of the hands of felons, domestic abusers and people with severe mental illness.”


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