Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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If Sandoval is serious about safety, he can start by standing with voters

On the heels of the Parkland shooting, Gov. Brian Sandoval has announced plans to meet with Nevada school superintendents to discuss school safety.

That’s great, but here’s hoping the superintendents demand that Sandoval do something that would make all Nevadans safer, including students.

That would be for Sandoval to finally stand up and fight for implementation of expanded background checks.

It’s been 16 long months since Nevada voters approved the background check ballot measure, and there’s been no progress on implementing the law. In fact, for reasons we’ll explain later, the state has gone backward on the issue.

The delay stems from a provision in the measure that would require the FBI to conduct the expanded checks. Under the ballot initiative, those checks apply to sales between private individuals at gun shows, through connections on the internet and so forth. The measure simply extended an existing requirement for background checks on sales involving licensed gun dealers, with the state being responsible for conducting those checks.

After the ballot initiative passed, the FBI told state officials it would not accept responsibility for conducting the expanded checks. That prompted Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to issue an opinion saying the law was unenforceable.

Then came months of silence. Although several states have developed hybrid systems in which state officials conduct some checks and the feds are responsible for others, Sandoval and Laxalt sat on their hands. So did the Legislature during the 2017 session — a disgraceful no-show by Democrats who held majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

When the Oct. 1 shooting generated pressure on Sandoval as to why the initiative hadn’t been implemented, he finally sent a letter to Laxalt seeking legal guidance on whether a hybrid system could be established in Nevada.

But five months later, there’s still no action.

In fact, as revealed during a recent hearing on a lawsuit aimed at forcing Sandoval into action, the sum total of the state’s negotiations with federal officials since the measure passed consists of one letter.

That’s an outrage.

It’s a kick in the teeth to every single one of the 558,631 Nevadans who voted in favor of the measure.

What’s more galling is that those doing the kicking are a governor who vetoed a universal background check measure passed by the Legislature in 2013 and an attorney general who appeared in TV commercials opposing the ballot measure.

So if Sandoval is truly interested in keeping schools safer, a good start would be to pick up the phone, call the FBI and either request or demand that the federal government start conducting the checks.

Attorneys representing Sandoval in the suit undoubtedly would disagree, having argued that the FBI had addressed the issue with the state three times before the vote, but that’s bunk. The vote changed everything. The people of Nevada spoke, and now Sandoval should fight tooth and nail to carry out their will.

School superintendents, being responsible for the well-being of students in their school systems, would be well-advised to press Sandoval on the matter.

The current situation in Nevada makes it all too easy for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them. Worse yet, the state has actually regressed since the vote. Before the balloting, checks were allowed but not required for sales involving unlicensed sellers, but Laxalt’s opinion led to those checks being halted.

Nevadans want the state’s leaders to close the loopholes. Any discussion about school safety would be incomplete without addressing universal background checks.