Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2016

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Why Nevada needs gun background checks

Gov. Brian Sandoval has an opportunity to save lives with a stroke of his pen.

The Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 221, which closes dangerous loopholes in the background check system that enable criminals to get their hands on guns. All that’s left is for Sandoval to sign it, but he has threatened to veto the life-saving measure.

On behalf of our lost loved ones, we hope he won’t.

Dave’s nephew, A.J. Boik, was murdered at the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. Elvin’s sister, Zina Daniel, was shot along with six others at a spa outside Milwaukee. Paul’s brother-in-law, Steve Forsyth, was killed at the Clackamas Town Center mall near Portland, Ore. And Bill was shot in the back of the head while tackling the gunman at the Tucson, Ariz., massacre that nearly took the life of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.

Nothing can change what happened to us, but it’s clear that expanded background checks will spare others the suffering we have endured. These checks have already saved countless lives by stopping more than 2 million gun purchases by dangerous people, but the system is undermined by dangerous loopholes.

Under current law, only federally licensed gun dealers are required to conduct background checks on gun buyers. In other words, people prohibited from owning guns can walk into a Crossroads Gun Show or log onto and purchase deadly weapons from a so-called private seller without any questions asked.

Last year, more than 6 million guns were sold this way without any background check at all. We’ll never know how many of those weapons were sold to convicted felons, domestic abusers or the dangerously mentally ill. But we do know that almost 80 percent of inmates convicted for gun crimes reported in a national survey that they acquired their weapon privately.

This flawed system can have tragic consequences. Two days after a judge issued a restraining order against Zina Daniel’s estranged husband, he posted an urgent “Want To Buy” ad on The following day, he murdered Zina with a gun he bought in a McDonald’s parking lot. The seller had asked whether Zina’s husband was prohibited from buying a gun, but no background check was conducted to catch his lie.

We can’t rely on an honor system for criminals. We appreciate Sandoval’s focus on wanting to improve record reporting to the background check system — this bill accomplishes that goal — but the system will remain fatally flawed as long as private sales are exempt.

As Republicans and independents, we admire Sandoval for his leadership on a variety of issues, and we know he means well. But Nevada’s laws ought to reflect the common sense of its citizens, 86 percent of whom support requiring a background check for every gun sale. They’re joined by more than 8 in 10 gun owners across the country, including 74 percent of members of the National Rifle Association.

That’s because most gun owners and Republicans realize that we can preserve our civil liberties while also doing everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of convicted criminals. This isn’t about the Second Amendment or playing politics. It’s about agreeing on a modest, reasonable measure that will save lives without infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.

While federal legislation stalls in the U.S. Senate, Nevada can take a lead in preventing gun violence with the signature of Sandoval. We urge him to reconsider his opposition to Senate Bill 221 and sign the bill into law.

The safety of the Nevadans who elected him depends on it.

Bill Badger is a retired U.S. Army colonel living in Arizona. Dave Hoover is a police officer in Colorado. Elvin Daniel is a sales and applications engineer in Illinois. Paul Kemp is an engineer in Oregon.

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