Las Vegas Sun

March 23, 2019

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Sun editorial:

NRA shoots itself in the foot with weak attacks on new Nevada law

As Nevada lawmakers were carrying out the will of state voters last week by enacting universal background checks on gun purchases, the National Rifle Association-backed opponents of the measure were already rumbling about challenging the measure in court.

But for the extremist organization, there’s no winning on this one. No matter what, it will come away weaker.

If it files a suit — which is highly likely — the NRA will only deepen its image as a pathetic band of gun nuts who are increasingly being ostracized by a public that is saying “Enough” to its extremism. If on the off chance it doesn’t sue, it will reveal itself as a financially beleaguered organization without enough resources to carry out a fight.

Let’s not forget that Nevadans have supported universal checks in two elections, first by passing a ballot question in 2016 and then by electing candidates in 2018 who vowed to work out a technical problem that blocked the new checks from being implemented. What’s more, Nevada lawmakers passed a bill on the matter in 2013, which would have become enacted if not for a wrongheaded veto by then-Gov. Brian Sandoval.

So time and time again, voters and their elected representatives have expressed support for the expanded vetting.

And time and time again, the NRA has pushed back only to lose.

Last week’s actions were the most dramatic loss yet for the NRA in Nevada. But the fact is that the organization is losing nearly everywhere. It’s being hammered financially amid a sharp decline in donations. Its candidates are losing at the polls. It’s been battered by the groundswell of activism sparked by the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., shooting, and it’s played the black hat by possibly taking money from Russian operatives — and admitted to cozying up to those operatives even if it didn’t take any cash from them.

The days of the NRA being practically invulnerable politically and financially are over.

Now, in stamping its feet over the Nevada measure and posturing to sue, it’s speeding its decline by revealing itself to be out of step with public opinion.

Then there’s the inhumanity of attacking the measure in a state where the most deadly mass shooting in modern history took place. Granted, the law wouldn’t have prevented the Oct. 1 shooter from obtaining the weapons he used to murder 58 innocent people and injure hundreds more, but the slaughter reinforced Southern Nevadans’ support for reasonable measures to improve gun safety. In trying to take down a law that Nevadans have backed, the NRA is once again displaying its twisted mentality that no amount of bloodshed is enough to justify any movement toward more safety.

So let’s call a lawsuit exactly what it would be: an attempt to hijack the democratic process.

Meanwhile, Gov. Steve Sisolak and the lawmakers who supported the Nevada measure did the right thing for voters, for public safety and for our state’s democracy.

This is a measure modeled on legislation that has been successfully implemented in other states. It would merely extend a background check requirement that has been in place for years for purchases involving licensed dealers. By subjecting sales between nonlicensed individuals to the same checks, it would close a loophole that allows felons, domestic abusers, the mentally ill and other people who shouldn’t have guns to get them at gun shows, through connections on the internet and by other means.

Is it perfect? No. Does it address every possible scenario involving a gun changing hands? No. But can any law cover every such scenario? Absolutely not.

This is good policy that Nevadans have supported for years.

The NRA, on the other hand, is digging itself into a deeper hole by continuing to dig in its heels against the will of the public. This is a weakened organization that is only going downward with its fanatical resistance to any and all reasonable attempts to improve gun safety.