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August 22, 2014

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Suit filed to invalidate petition on gun background checks

A lawsuit has been filed in district court to block an initiative petition to require background checks on people buying guns from unlicensed dealers.

The suit, brought by Reno lawyer Rew Goodenow, says the language in the petition is misleading. The initiative carries the word “loophole” referring to the present law, and that is inaccurate, says the suit filed Monday.

The initiative says the present law requires a person buying a gun from a licensed gun dealer to undergo a background check. It says that “due to a loophole in the law, a background check is not required when a person obtains a gun from an unlicensed seller, making it easier for felons, domestic abusers and other dangerous people to buy guns.”

The present law, says Goodenow, is “clear and voluntary.” He refers to a bill passed by the 2013 Legislature for more background checks in the sale of guns, but it was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

And the description of the initiative does not clearly set out that violation of the proposed law would result in a felony charge.

Matt Griffin, attorney for Nevadans For Background Checks, which proposes the petition, said he has reviewed the suit and has no comment. He said he is “looking forward to getting the petition to the judge.”

He agrees with Goodenow’s request for District Judges James Wilson Jr. to hold a hearing within 15 days.

The plaintiffs in the suit are Don Turner, Vicky Kawehmacher, Larry Rowe, Ron Sims, Douglas Bacon Sr. and Omar Forbes.

The suit is accompanied by a statement by Virginia Lawyer Stephen Halbrook, who says he has written books on firearms regulation. He maintains this petition, if enacted, “would dramatically transform state law to criminalize previously lawfully abiding citizens who occasionally wish to sell or trade firearms.”

Backers of the initiative must gather 101,667 signatures of registered voters by Nov. 11. There must be at least 25,417 legal signatures from each of the four congressional districts.

It would be presented to the 2015 Legislature; if it doesn’t pass, it would go to voters in 2016.

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