Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2019

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Sun Editorial:

Gun background checks: Over half-million Nevada voters will not be ignored by Laxalt

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has insisted that his opposition to last November’s ballot question calling for expanded background checks on firearms purchases was based not on the Second Amendment but rather on his opinion that the measure was legally flawed.

But unless you were born with an extra gullibility gene or two, you had to wonder whether Laxalt was actually motivated by politics instead of the law. A conservative Republican who has all but announced he’ll run for governor in 2018, Laxalt has had plenty to gain among the NRA crowd and other deep-red voters by trying to torpedo a modest and completely reasonable gun measure.

And now, after announcing in December that the initiative couldn’t be implemented despite being approved by voters, Laxalt has strained his credibility tighter than a piano wire on the issue by giving a speech at the NRA convention this past weekend.

Gee, wonder where Laxalt’s allegiances lie: to his happiness-is-a-warm-gun base or to the 558,631 Nevadans who voted for expanded background checks and are still waiting for state officials to figure out a way to implement them?

Proponents of Question 1 called out Laxalt on the matter last Friday, saying he should do his job and try to work out the kinks in the measure.

They were right, but they actually should have gone further. The governor’s office, the Legislature and the Department of Public Safety also should be striving to carry out the will of the voters and figure out a way to get the background checks in place.

Granted, the problem with implementation is prickly. Under the language of the ballot question, Nevada would become what’s known as a hybrid state where background checks on purchases through licensed gun dealers would be performed by the state while screenings on transactions involving private sellers at gun shows, via the internet and so forth would be done by the FBI.

The FBI notified the Department of Public Safety in December that it would not participate in the checks as outlined in the measure, at which point officials threw up their hands and said the measure couldn’t be implemented.

But taking no for an answer isn’t good enough — not just in Laxalt’s case but for other state leaders.

Granted, what Nevadans are asking the FBI to do is unusual, in that the feds would be doing checks required by state law and not federal law. So whether Nevada can find a way around the FBI’s refusal to do the checks is unknown.

But the problem is that no one is trying. Compare this situation with the state’s actions on another major public safety issue, Yucca Mountain. After President Donald Trump proposed funding to resurrect the high-level nuclear waste repository, Laxalt and Gov. Brian Sandoval teamed up to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas to speed up the project. A news release about the move said Sandoval had directed state officials “to leave no stone unturned and pursue all viable options” to defeat the project.

Expanded background checks deserve a similarly aggressive approach. If Laxalt’s not going to lead the way toward finding a solution — and, let’s face it, his poster-boy status with the NRA pretty much guarantees he won’t — then someone else needs to step up.

Leave no stone unturned. Pursue all viable options.

Figure. It. Out.

The voters have spoken: They want guns to be kept out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, such as convicted felons, the mentally ill and domestic violence offenders. A majority of Nevada voters decided last November that supplementing the current federal law on background checks with a state law calling for checks on private sales was a responsible step towards reducing gun violence.

Now, it’s past time for Nevada’s leaders to quit ignoring those 558,631 voters and get to work.

This editorial has been revised to correct an error regarding the recipient of the FBI’s notice in December.

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