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October 16, 2021

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Universal gun background check bill becomes law in Nevada


Tom R. Smedes / AP

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak delivers his first State of the State Address from the Assembly Chambers of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.

After a marathon week that included a day-long public comment session, a contentious background check bill has moved through the Legislature and has been signed into law by Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The bill will require background checks on the vast majority of all gun transfers and sales by closing a loophole that allowed unlicensed sellers to circumvent existing background check regulations.

Introduced on Tuesday, it was sped through the legislative process faster than normal, drawing concerns from Republican lawmakers about the speed and rebukes from Democrats that voters had requested the law in a 2016 ballot measure. The measure was narrowly passed by voters in 2016 calling for increased background checks.

“The bill I’m about to sign is a long-overdue, common-sense measure that will make Nevada safer and has the power to save lives from gun violence,” Sisolak said. “We have already lost too many lives across the country to guns. With this bill, we are taking an important step to address the nationwide public health crisis that is gun violence, and we are making our children and families safer here at home by making it harder for potentially dangerous individuals to access a firearm.”

The bill was generally opposed on party lines — no Republicans voted in favor of the bill in either chamber, and only one Democrat, Rep. Skip Daly of Sparks, opposed the measure.

Democratic Rep. Howard Watts of Las Vegas said that the existing background check laws have already stopped certain sales at licensed retailers. In a statement earlier this week, Attorney General Aaron Ford said that over 5,000 gun sales were stopped due to background checks between 2012 and 2014.

“With thousands already denied under our current system, I am confident that closing this loophole will reduce gun violence in our community,” Watts said.

Republican concerns continued from the Senate session Wednesday, with Representatives such as Republicans Tom Roberts (Las Vegas), Jill Tolles (Washoe County), and Jim Wheeler (Minden) complaining of increased partisanship, unenforceability and a slippery slope toward further gun legislation.

Under the law, gun buyers who wish to purchase a gun from an unlicensed dealer must first have a background check done by a licensed gun dealer.

Transfers are similarly regulated, with some exceptions. Permanent transfers between immediate family members or estate executors are not regulated.

Temporary transfers for things like hunting or shooting events are allowed. Republicans in the Senate spoke Tuesday about concerns the language around “transfer” was not concrete enough — concerns rebuffed by Democrats.

Sisolak signed the bill almost immediately after its passage through the Assembly. The Governor has made tougher gun laws a priority during his term, and has expressed desire to see bans on bump stocks, silencers and assault-style weapons.