Paul Larsen: Approving State Question 1 will save lives
I’m a gun owner, a hunter and a NRA member. I highly value and honor my Second Amendment right and I am a passionate supporter of Question 1. Like most gun owners I know, I take safety seriously — and I know how dangerous a gun can be if it ends up in the wrong hands. Voting yes on Question 1 will make it harder for criminals and other dangerous people to get guns. It’s that simple — and it’s why I support Question 1.
Right now in Nevada, only gun sales conducted by a licensed gun dealer require a background check. That means thousands of guns change hands every year through private, unlicensed sales without a background check. Many of these sales occur on internet marketplaces, in what has become a vast, unregulated black market. In Nevada, on just four websites over the course of just two years, Nevadans posted more than 35,000 unique gun ads offering guns in unlicensed sales, no background checks required. And, according to a recent investigation of these online sales, one in 11 people shopping online for a gun has a criminal record that prohibits them from buying a gun under federal law: felons, fugitives and domestic abusers. Question 1 will directly address this by requiring background checks for all guns sales, whether at a gun store, a gun show, or online, with very reasonable exceptions.
I, too, have heard the myth that criminals don’t go through background checks. That is simply not the case. In Nevada, between 2012 and 2014, background checks blocked 5,379 gun sales to felons, criminals and domestic abusers — people not allowed under our existing laws to buy guns — trying to buy guns from licensed gun dealers. The background check system at licensed gun dealers has been in place since 1998, and it works to block criminals and other prohibited purchasers from obtaining guns. Question 1 would simply expand this existing system to cover all gun sales so that all gun purchasers follow the same rules — no loopholes.
Question 1 will make a difference, and will save lives. In states that have passed similar laws, there are 46 percent fewer fatal domestic violence shootings, 48 percent fewer police officers shot with handguns in the line of duty, and there is 48 percent less gun trafficking in cities.
Some have voiced concern that the measure would somehow impact and inconvenience law-abiding gun owners. As any honest gun purchaser will tell you, background checks are quick and easy. In fact, over 97 percent of Nevadans live within 10 miles of a licensed dealer who can conduct a background check, and the vast majority of background checks are completed in under 90 seconds.
I strongly believe in the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms and I will fight to protect it. But with that right comes a real responsibility to do what we can to make sure guns don’t end up in the wrong hands. As gun owners, and as Nevadans, we have a duty to do our part to help reduce gun violence committed by persons who are prohibited by law to even posses guns, save lives, and make our state safer. I urge you to join us in voting yes on Question 1.
Paul Larsen is a Nevada hunter and NRA member.