Gun background check passes Senate; Assembly to vote Friday |

Gun background check passes Senate; Assembly to vote Friday

Members of a Nevada chapter of Moms Demand Action attend a hearing for Senate Bill 143 at the Nevada Legislature Building in Carson City on Tuesday.
AP | The Reno Gazette-Journal

After two hours of contentious debate, the Senate on Wednesday passed the bill designed to actually implement the voter-approved gun background checks law.

Despite extensive debate, it came as no surprise that no minds were changed and SB143 passed on a party line vote with all 13 Democrats for and all eight Republicans against.

Republican Keith Pickard, R-Las Vegas, made an attempt to convince members to back an amendment he said cured critical flaws including that many critical terms weren’t clearly defined.

“What this does not do is undermine in any way the closing of the gun show loophole and does not change the requirement to go to a federal firearms licensee to get a background check,” he said.

Pickard said, in fact, he supports background checks for private gun sales similar to the federal law that already mandates backgrounders for weapons sold by a licensed gun dealer.

But Judiciary Committee Chairman Nicole Cannazzaro, D-Las Vegas, said her review of the amendment indicates it removes the only change lawmakers made to Question 1 of 2016 — directing the backgrounders be done by the state’s Central Criminal History Repository instead of the FBI.

Requiring the FBI to do the backgrounders effectively blocked the voter initiative since the FBI refused to allow individuals to access their criminal history system. She and prime sponsor, Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, said that effectively guts the language that makes the law enforceable.

“It would render the entire bill unenforceable,” she said.

Pickard disagreed saying removing that language doesn’t hurt the bill because that language just isn’t needed.

The amendment failed.

Atkinson said in 2016, a majority of Nevada voters made it clear they want sensible gun control on sales and transfers of weapons.

“The voters have spoken and it’s time to take action,” he said, pointing out he, Gov. Steve Sisolak and other Democrats ran on a platform that included gun background checks.

Republican Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he questions how much good the bill will do because he still believes some of its provisions will catch innocent, law-abiding citizens.

“Unfortunately, I believe this will make my constituents guilty of transfer violations,” he said by simply loaning a gun to a co-worker on a ranch or to someone who feels they’re in serious danger.

Sen. Melanie Scheible, D-Las Vegas, a Clark County prosecutor, said the bill is an attempt to prevent what happens when guns get into the hands of prohibited persons. She said she has prosecuted cases where prohibited persons are caught with a firearm and, without closing the gun show and private sales exemptions to backgrounders, it’s too easy for felons, domestic abusers and those with protective and restraining orders to get weapons.

But Sen. Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, said he doesn’t believe the law will have a significant impact on criminals getting guns. He said Nevada already has laws and is still unable to keep criminals and the seriously mentally ill from getting guns.

Sen. Yvanna Cancella, D-Las Vegas, said the law is intended to make it harder for those seeking to circumvent those laws from getting a weapon. She said it has nothing to do with the mass shootings the nation has suffered in recent years, that it’s “aimed at the gun violence that happens every day” — domestic violence, stalking, harassment and similar violations.

The measure was immediately transmitted to the Assembly which was set to also take SB143 up on Friday.