One change in background checks petition |

One change in background checks petition

Carson District Judge James Wilson ordered only one change to the petition seeking to mandate background checks for almost all gun buyers.

He rejected most of the objections raised by opponents to the measure, but did tell Nevadans for Background Checks lawyer Matt Griffin he must add language explaining the criminal penalties the petition would impose.

The change will be made in a rewrite to the Description of Effect designed to tell signers what the petition would do if approved by either the Legislature or voters.

The original description, which is limited to just 200 words, didn’t mention the criminal penalties created by the petition.

Wilson said the proposed statute would do two things: make background checks mandatory for unlicensed gun dealers instead of voluntary. Those back grounders are already required under federal law for licensed gun dealers.

Petition supporters have charged that as many as 40 percent of all gun sales are at swap meets and other places and done without making sure the buyer isn’t an ex-felon or another person not legally allowed to buy a gun. They also claim some 86 percent of Nevadans support background checks designed to make it more difficult for ex-felons and those certified as mentally ill from buying guns.

The second thing it would do, said the judge, is create criminal penalties — a gross misdemeanor for the first offense by a seller and a felony for repeat offenders. He said that must be mentioned in the description so petition signers know.

Rue Goodenow, attorney for the petition opponents, conceded at the start of the hearing the challenge was aimed only at the description of effect and not at the petition itself, which meets legal requirements.

The petition drive was spurred by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto of background check legislation passed by the 2013 Legislature.

Supporters must collect at least 101,667 signatures from registered Nevada voters by Nov. 11 in order to have the initiative presented to the 2015 Nevada Legislature. At least 25,417 of those signatures must be gathered in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts for the petition to be valid.

The Legislature will then have 40 calendar days to act on the initiative. If it passes it, it becomes law and cannot be modified for at least three years, It could also pass a different and competing version of the language, reject it or not act on it at all. In those cases, the issue would go before the voters on the 2016 General Election ballot for a decision.

Since a background checks bill was passed by the Legislature already, supporters believe there’s a good chance the initiative would be approved by lawmakers.