Las Vegas Sun

November 27, 2021

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Group speaks out against Laxalt over background-check law


Ricardo Torres-Cortez

Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, speaks from the Grant Sawyer State Office Building where Question 1 proponents met on Friday, April 28, 2017, and demanded that the Nevada attorney general implement the measure.

While Attorney General Adam Laxalt addressed the National Rifle Association in Atlanta on Friday, proponents of the Question 1 background-check measure gathered locally to ask him to “do your job” and enact the law.

The implementation of the law, which passed in a narrow vote during November’s election, was foiled in December when the FBI announced that it wouldn’t conduct background checks on private transfers of firearms in Nevada or on sales online and at gun shows, as the bill’s language stated.

Proponents of the law have stressed that Laxalt, a Republican who is vocally opposed to Question 1, has the responsibility to implement the will of the voters, something the attorney general has said is not possible because of how the bill was drafted.

“Voters did their part. They showed up at the ballot box and decidedly said they want background checks on gun sales in the state,” said Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, from the Grant Sawyer State Office Building where Question 1 proponents met. “It’s now on the attorney general to step forward and enact the law of the land. Until he does that, I think he’s going to be hearing from a lot of angry Nevadans.”

The law would have required the majority of firearm transfers and sales (outside of licensed gun stores) to be completed through a licensed dealer, who would rely on FBI databases.

Background checks in Nevada currently are done through the repository run by the Department of Public Safety, marking the state as one of a dozen with a “point-of-contact” designation.

The FBI suggested the new checks also be done through the repository, but Laxalt opined that the bill's language does not allow that.

“It is clear that the same people at (Friday's) press conference are the people that failed to properly draft the central feature of the act, namely who is responsible for performing background checks,” a spokeswoman for Laxalt’s office said in an email statement on Friday. “As Nevada’s chief law enforcement agency, and in keeping with our commitment to uphold the rule of law, we are deeply concerned about the prospect of district attorneys across the state imposing criminal sanctions for a person’s failure to perform an act that is impossible to perform.”

The speeches at Friday's event pressed Laxalt to enforce the measure but did not offer clear guidelines on how he should do that.

They did passionately discuss the effects of violence.

"In a city that thrives on hotels striving for full occupancy every night, I'm here today to ask Attorney General Adam Laxalt to decrease the occupancy of our shelter, which is full almost every night with women and children fleeing dangerous situations with their lives in jeopardy," said Liz Ortenburger, executive director of Safe Nest. "Nevada's background check laws ... make it far too easy for domestic abusers to buy guns without background checks. As our attorney general, it is (Laxalt's) job to enforce all Nevada's laws regardless if he agrees with them."

Honey Borla, of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, who described herself as a gun owner, said she hasn't lost hope that the background check measure will eventually be implemented.

She said that events such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting are shameful and have steered her into advocacy. "(Laxalt) feels like he can't honor this law because of a technicality, then I'm quite sure we'll find a way to close the loophole."

In February, Question 1 proponents filed a massive public records request to state and federal agencies regarding the measure, the Las Vegas Sun previously reported. Details on what was requested weren't disclosed.

They have said Laxalt should work with state and federal agencies to address the issues surrounding implementation. Nevada's Legislature can't make changes to a voter-approved law for three years after it's passed.

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