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September 25, 2016

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Sandoval opposes closing gun sales background check loophole

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Sam Morris

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval speaks at the Nevada Development Authority’s annual luncheon Friday, Dec. 7, 2012.

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Sen. Justin C. Jones

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Sen. Michael Roberson

Gov. Brian Sandoval said Tuesday that he opposes and would veto a bill requiring private party background checks for gun purchases that Democrats support.

Hours after a legislative hearing concluded for Senate Bill 221 from Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, Republicans introduced a last-minute bill on the senate floor to compete with Jones’ background check measure.

The move draws a clear partisan line between Democrats and Republicans with the governor now supporting the bill from Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson.

Roberson’s bill, Senate Bill 520, duplicates the provisions in Jones’ bill that would require the courts to more quickly report mental health adjudications to the federal database used for gun purchase background checks.

But the Republican’s measure strips the background check provisions, expands the state’s existing ban on so-called straw gun purchases, and strikes any fees for voluntarily submitting to a background check.

Both bills strengthen reporting requirements for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Roberson’s bill quickly drew accolades from the governor and Republicans in the Legislature. The state Democratic Party and legislative Democrats followed with press releases criticizing the bill.

Jones introduced his bill on the fourth day of the 120-day legislative session and has been talking to the governor’s office about the bill during the past months. But talks stalled last week with the governor opposing mandatory private party background checks and Jones unwilling to strike what he called the “key” point of the bill.

Jones was displeased with Roberson for introducing the bill on the 114th day of the legislative session.

“It’s politically craven for Sen. Roberson to decide on day 114 that he suddenly cares,” Jones said.

Roberson had earlier offered an amendment to Jones’ bill that was nearly identical to SB 520. That effort failed on a party line vote.

While representatives from the governor’s office said Jones has been “extremely cooperative and forthcoming,” Sandoval was “having a lot of difficulty” with agreeing to the background check provisions of Jones’ bill, said Gerald Gardner, Sandoval’s chief of staff.

Republicans and Democrats alike support the aspect of Jones’ bill that require agencies to report within five days various circumstances under which someone is declared mentally ill. These reports are submitted into a federal database and supporters of Jones’ bill say the five-day reporting deadline will keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

Jones said he’s unwilling to divorce that reporting aspect from the two sections of the bill that pertain to private party background checks.

Roberson said he’s trying to save that section of a bill that is otherwise doomed.

“These reporting requirements are important,” Roberson said. “Because SB 221 places additional burdens on the rights of law-abiding citizens, SB221 is not likely to become law. As such, I’ve decided to include those reporting requirements in SB 520.”

But Roberson’s bill also appears to be dead, even though it was just introduced.

“There is currently no plan to hear Roberson’s bill,” said Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee to which the Senate referred Roberson’s bill.

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