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October 26, 2014

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Gun control advocates win court victory

Backers of an initiative petition requiring background checks for gun purchases in Nevada won a court victory Friday and a spokesman said the group is ready to start gathering signatures.

District Judge James Wilson ordered a minor rewrite of the initiative, striking down most of the arguments of those who said the 200-word description of the petition was misleading.

Matt Griffin, attorney for Nevadans for Background Checks, said he was pleased with the decision, which will allow his clients to begin gathering the required 101,667 signatures to qualify the initiative.

Rew Goodenow, an attorney representing a pro-firearms group, said he did not think there would be an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court at this stage but he wants to talk to his clients before deciding on future legal strategy.

The current law requires a person who buys a gun from a licensed seller to undergo a background check. The initiative would require a background check in purchases from an unlicensed dealer.

The petition says the law makes it easier for felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous persons to buy a weapon without a background check.

The background check would not be required in the transfer of firearms between family members, for those using the gun while hunting and trapping and who have valid licenses for this activity.

A similar bill was approved by the Legislature along party lines, with Democrats supporting and Republicans opposing. Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the bill.

The original petition said an unlicensed dealer who sold a weapon without a background check could be charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense. The judge said that must be changed to gross misdemeanor. Subsequent violations carry a felony charge.

The initiative petition must have the signatures of at least 25,417 registered voters in each of the four congressional districts by Nov. 11.

If successful, the petition would be presented to the 2015 Legislature, which must act within 40 days. If the Legislature doesn’t approve the plan, it will go on the 2016 election ballot.

The plaintiffs who complained the 200-word summary of the petition was misleading were Don Turner, Vicky Kawehmacher, Larry Rowe, Ron Sims, Douglas Bacon Sr. and Omar Forbes.

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