Las Vegas Sun

August 19, 2017

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EDITORIAL:

NRA’s wailing doesn’t drown out facts on background checks

The National Rifle Association and its cohorts would love for Nevada voters to see molehills as mountains.

True to their extremist nature, the leading opponents of a November ballot question to require universal background checks on gun purchases would have voters believe that the measure is full of diabolically restrictive provisions that make it a full-on assault on the Second Amendment.

It’s not.

Take, for instance, one of the provisions that the NRA is rampaging about: a restriction on temporary transfers of firearms — a formal term basically defined as a gun owner allowing someone else to use the weapon. The measure would limit when such transfers could occur without a background check.

The NRA has seized on that provision to suggest that passing the measure would lead to making Nevada’s gun laws even more restrictive than those of our liberal neighbor to the west.

That’s ridiculous. Yes, the transfer provision is a restriction — there’s no getting around that — but it’s also loaded with exceptions. Among them, guns can be transferred to a broad range of immediate family members, including grandparents, spouses, nieces and nephews, as well as for self-defense and activities such as hunting and shooting competitions.

There are plenty of ways in which a firearm can be given to someone else without having to go through a background check.

But treating any attempt at reasonable gun control as lighting the Constitution on fire is common for the gun lobby. The NRA has steamrolled meaningful attempts at getting our arms around the nation’s rampant gun problem by bullying leaders who would dare get in its way. It portrays anyone who suggests gun control measures as being hell-bent on seizing people’s guns and punishing responsible owners of firearms.

But in reality, the background check measure is a step in the right direction.

It would close a loophole that allows guns sales to happen online and at gun shows without background checks. In other words, it would extend requirements already in place for licensed gun dealers, who must conduct background checks on buyers before making a sale.

The point is to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. And background checks work. Between 2011 and 2014, more than 5,400 prospective sales involving licensed dealers were blocked in Nevada. Fugitives, felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill were denied purchases thanks to those checks. Nationwide, more than 2.4 million sales have been blocked.

Will background checks alone solve gun violence? No. The country is saturated with guns — the general consensus is that there are at least 300 million — so criminals will find ways to get them. Plus, plenty of gun violence has been committed with weapons purchased by people who have cleared background checks.

But that doesn’t mean we should throw up our hands and quit trying to make it more difficult for those who shouldn’t have guns to get them, which is why the ballot measure should be supported.

It’s also why the opponents should be ignored. That includes Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who said in a statement that the question would cost Nevada residents “time, money and freedom.” Let’s point out something very important here: The statement was issued by the NRA. It’s also well worth mentioning that Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson is in favor of the measure.

And with regard to most Nevada sheriffs coming out against the question, remember: 1) The measure has drawn support from the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, a statewide union that represents about 1,500 police officers, prison guards and probation officers; and 2) Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo isn’t among those sheriffs who are in opposition. He’s staying neutral.

As the election approaches, the shouting of the “from my cold, dead hands” crowd will grow louder. Let them rave. With their history of fear-mongering, misinforming and blustering, they’ve proven they’re not worth listening to.

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