Friday, March 23, 2018 | 2 a.m.
During a recent four-hour meeting with Nevada law enforcement officers about school safety, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said one of the recommendations from the session was to improve the state’s background checks system.
Laxalt said the recommendation focused on ensuring that information was being fed into the existing system, so officials could “make sure that the wrong people that are not supposed to have guns don’t have guns.”
Gee, what a great idea, beefing up background checks. It’s so great, in fact, that Nevada voters passed a ballot measure in 2016 that would improve on the existing system by expanding checks — making them apply not only to sales involving licensed dealers, but to those between nonlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the internet and in other situations.
But the ballot initiative was never implemented. Why?
Largely because Laxalt and Gov. Brian Sandoval wouldn’t go to bat for the voters.
Days before the expanded background checks were scheduled to go into effect, Laxalt issued an opinion saying they couldn’t be put in place because of a problem over who would conduct them. The ballot initiative called for the FBI to conduct the expanded checks, which would have created a system in which state officials did checks for sales involving licensed dealers and the FBI handled the others, but the feds told the state it didn’t intend to do so.
Did Laxalt and Sandoval negotiate, though? Did they call the feds and demand that the will of Nevada voters be carried out? Did they insist that the FBI treat Nevada like several other states that have established so-called hybrid systems in which checks are split between state and federal officials?
No, no and no. During a hearing late last month in a lawsuit on the ballot question, it was revealed that the contact between state officials and the feds since the ballot issue passed has consisted of one letter.
This is an outrage, especially considering that Laxalt campaigned against the measure. Laxalt claimed his opposition to it was based on a legal concern, but this is a man who has spoken at a national NRA meeting and may do so again this year. During his speech to the organization in 2017, he cited his opposition to to the ballot question to underscore his record of opposing gun control measures.
“Attorneys general across this country have been fighting for our rights, fighting for the Second Amendment, over the last few years,” he said. “Many called the attorneys general the last line of defense against the Obama administration.”
So draw your own conclusions about the source of his opposition, and get ready to hear plenty of NRA rhetoric spilling from him during the campaign for governor.
In his recent meeting with law enforcement authorities, Laxalt mentioned several recommendations that were right out of the NRA’s talking points.
Put more police officers in schools. Improve the mental health system. Allow qualified teachers to be armed in the classroom.
If expanded background checks came up during the meeting, news reports from the session don’t mention the initiative.
It needs to be part of any discussion on school safety, and a key element of Laxalt’s upcoming report on school safety in Nevada.
Unfortunately, it’s all but certain it won’t be, because it’s not supported by the NRA.
Laxalt is such a robot for the organization, the day he floats a policy it opposes will be the day President Donald Trump admits he got demolished in the popular vote.
So in his school safety report, look for Laxalt to recommend school-safety measures that serve the NRA’s goal of putting more guns in schools — and, more important for the organization, beefing up sagging sales for the firearms industry.
The industry has been in the doldrums since Barack Obama left the White House and Trump moved in. That’s due largely to two factors: First, an irrational fear among gun buyers that Obama would seize their guns has subsided; and second, gun manufacturers went into heavy production mode during the election, anticipating that Hillary Clinton would win and the fear among gun owners would be amplified.
If Laxalt were something more than a wind-up toy for the NRA on gun issues, he’d suggest changes that hit at the root of the problem of gun safety in schools, such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — and implementing universal background checks.