Las Vegas Sun

December 15, 2018

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It’s time to treat gun sales with the gravity they deserve

A can of spray paint. A gun.

Which is easier to buy in Southern Nevada?

That’s a little bit of a trick question, but the answer can be a gun.

It depends on who’s selling it. A year after Nevada voters approved a ballot measure that would have made background checks a requirement on all gun purchases in the state, the initiative still hasn’t been implemented due to a technical issue.

As a consequence, sales between private individuals via the internet, at gun shows and in other one-on-one situations can go through without a check. In other words, if you buy a gun from anyone but a licensed gun dealer, it can be as easy as paying with one hand and accepting the gun with the other. No ID needed, no background check, just cash and carry.

Spray paint, meanwhile, must be kept under lock and key in Clark County due to a county ordinance targeting graffiti. Same for permanent markers with wide tips.

This is patently illogical, of course. Graffiti is a nuisance for the most part and at worst can be used by gang members to antagonize each other, while gun violence has resulted in at least 70 deaths in Las Vegas since Oct. 1. Which is the bigger problem?

But as with so many other situations in our gun-glutted nation, logic flies out the window when it comes to gun control.

So in Nevada, it’s also easier to buy a gun from a private seller than the following:

• Sudafed and other medications containing pseudoephedrine. An ID is required to purchase the drug, which is commonly used to make methamphetamine, and buyers are limited in the amount they can purchase per day and per month. The state tracks purchases and maintains a database of buyers. There’s no such tracking for gun purchases.

• An airline or Amtrak ticket. ID is required for both.

• Fertilizer. By state law, ID is required for purchases of anhydrous ammonia and of ammonium nitrate fertilizers that contain more than 23 percent nitrogen. The chemicals can be used to make explosives. The state tracks the sales.

• Beer. This one’s conditional, but Nevada law allows people 18 and older to buy guns. And as with private sales involving people over 21, there’s no need for someone 18 to 20 to present an ID for those transactions.

Pro-gun zealots will have all kinds of quibbles about these comparisons. They could correctly point out that private sellers of spray paint aren’t required to keep it locked up.

Still, common sense screams that it should not be easier to buy a gun than cold medicine or a train ticket, period.

None of which is to say that the regulations regarding the sale of Sudafed, fertilizer or spray paint are unreasonable, merely that gun purchases should also be viewed through such a discerning lens.

If you agree, send your thoughts to Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose duty is to find a way to implement the universal background check measure. Implementation has been gummed up due to a provision in the measure requiring the FBI to perform checks on private sales, which the FBI says it’s not responsible for doing. Currently, all checks are done by the state.

But other states have forged so-called hybrid systems in which checks are conducted by the state and federal government, so Nevadans have every right to demand that state leaders figure out a way to make the ballot measure work.

You can contact Sandoval online or by calling 702-486-2500, and Laxalt via email or by calling 702-486-3420. If it drives you crazy that buying a can of Krylon is harder than buying a gun, let them hear it.