Nevada suit seeks to enforce expanded gun background checks
LAS VEGAS — A group behind a ballot initiative that Nevada voters approved last year expanding gun background checks to unlicensed dealers is suing the governor and attorney general to try to make them enforce it.
The measure mandating FBI background checks on private-party gun sales passed by less than 1 percentage point in November after Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a similar measure in 2013.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt has maintained that the new law can’t be enforced after the FBI informed the state in December it wants Nevada’s Department of Public Safety to conduct the checks itself in the same way it has done for commercial gun sales by licensed dealers since 1998.
Laxalt’s office issued a new legal opinion on Thursday that says the state can ask for the FBI’s cooperation to finding a solution, but he warned that any changes in the state’s existing system could result in further complications.
Nevadans for Background Checks filed the new lawsuit Thursday in Clark County District Court. They argue the ballot measure effectively changed the state system to dictate that the FBI perform the background checks.
“Regrettably, due to Governor Sandoval’s refusal to act and a flawed and incomplete opinion from the Attorney General, the Background Check Act has not been enforced and remains in limbo, contravening the will of the people of the Nevada who exercised their constitutional right to change the law to promote public safety and protect the communities of this state,” the lawsuit said.
Groups were pushing for the law’s implementation months before a gunman opened fire in Las Vegas, killing dozens and wounding hundreds. They say that even though the gun background check law may not have been able to prevent the shooter from obtaining his guns, it would help keep firearms out of the hands of those who are suicidal or a threat to others.
“Last week was a terrifying wake-up call about why strong gun laws matter and parents like me won’t sit idly by as our leaders refuse to do their jobs,” said Elizabeth Becker, a volunteer with the Nevada chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
“Our governor and attorney general now face a clear choice: Will they keep dragging their feet on enforcing the law voters passed last year, or will they start working with the FBI to implement it?” she said in a statement Friday.
Sandoval said when he vetoed a similar measure in 2013 that it eroded Second Amendment rights.
His press secretary, Mari St. Martin, said Thursday the governor intends to review the new opinion from the attorney general.