Las Vegas Sun

November 29, 2015

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Present law in Nevada makes it easy for abusers to buy guns

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Last October, a young woman in Milwaukee named Zina Daniel filed a domestic violence restraining order against her husband. This barred him from obtaining a firearm under federal law, but several days later, he did just that, purchasing a Glock semiautomatic handgun online from a private seller who was not required to conduct a background check. The next day, the husband murdered Ms. Daniel and two other women and injured four others at the spa where she worked.

This tragedy occurred in Wisconsin, but it is the type of incident that takes place all too often in our state — and one that we must do everything in our power to prevent. That opportunity is in front of us now as the Nevada Legislature considers Senate Bill 221, which would require background checks for all gun sales. While the U.S. Senate failed to uphold public safety on a similar measure in Washington last month, here in Nevada we must take action to protect the lives domestic violence victims in our state.

As the law currently stands, domestic abusers, felons and the mentally ill are able to avoid background checks and purchase firearms from unlicensed dealers online or at gun shows from private sellers. Roughly 40 percent of all gun sales take place in the private market in this country. Without requiring a background check, we simply have no way of preventing an individual intent on doing harm from obtaining a weapon for that purpose.

As the executive director of Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, I have heard the voices of men and women in abusive relationships that can turn violent quickly and with terrible consequences. In fact, Nevada has ranked No. 1 for most female gun murders for five out of the last six years. The presence of a gun in domestic violence altercations increases the chance of homicide for women by 500 percent.

Clearly, we must keep guns out of the hands of every abuser whom a judge has deemed legally unfit to purchase a weapon.

Other states have done so with remarkable success. Thirty-eight percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners in states that have passed universal background check laws similar to the one before the legislature in Carson City. These successes show that the National Instant Background Check System works. Since its inception in 1998, the system has blocked more than 2 million gun sales to individuals who are prohibited from owning a firearm. Of this group of thwarted purchasers, domestic abusers are second only to felons in the number of prevented sales. All we need to do now is to close the loophole for private sellers in Nevada and finally fill the gaps in the system.

This reform will in no way infringe upon the rights of law-abiding Nevadan gun owners. It is simply a measure to ensure that those who threaten to unleash the horrors of gun violence on our citizens are kept at bay. Of course, Nevadans know that this common-sense solution is necessary. An astonishing 86 percent of Nevada residents support requiring background checks on all gun sales.

At NNADV, we provide support to domestic violence organizations whose workers witness the consequences of gun violence far too often. Women who live in fear of abusive partners should not have to suffer an additional anxiety that their abuser’s restraining order or domestic violence conviction will not prevent him or her from obtaining a gun. It is unfathomable that we would not act to ensure that the rule of law is upheld and that those most at risk of victimization in our state are protected when they need it most.

Sue Meuschke is the executive director of Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence.

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