© 2023 KUNR
An illustrated mountainscape with trees and a broadcast tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Battle over gun rights could be on 2016 ballot

Background checks are not required for all gun sales in Nevada, but that could soon change. Advocates of gun control are trying to gather enough signatures to put the matter on the ballot in 2016.

This isn't the first time Nevadans have attempted to expand background checks. Last year, Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed legislation that would’ve done that. Now, lawmakers and advocates are trying another approach: putting the vote to the people. 

“They’re not trying to take anyone’s guns away. This has nothing to do with infringing on the Second Amendment. This has everything to do with good, common sense public safety.”

Democratic State Senator Pat Spearman is one of those behind the initiative. She points to the recent shooting of several police officers in Las Vegas as just one more symptom of lax gun regulations. For Spearman, who was once a police officer in the military, it just makes sense. 

"To do the morally responsible thing and close the loopholes so that felons, domestic abusers and people who are mentally challenged will not have access to firearms."

The loophole is that anyone can buy guns from private, unlicensed sellers without a background check. According to those behind this initiative, polling shows that more than 80% of Nevadans support universal background checks. 

Don Turner is head of the Nevada Firearms Coalition.

“‘Are you in favor of taking your guns to a federal firearms dealer and paying a fee before you can sell your gun’. ”

Turner says, if the issue had been framed that way, not as many Nevadans would be on board. Currently, a private seller can voluntarily call the state for free to check someone’s criminal history. If the Background Check Initiative became law, the majority of private sales would take place at a licensed gun dealer and would go through the federal background check system. 

“When that happens, the gun has to be put in a record. That record is available to the federal government, so, de facto, they are starting a 100%  federal registry of firearms."

Turner says more checks wouldn’t stop the kind of shootings we’ve seen recently. Instead, he’d like to see more firearms safety programs to educate gun owners. 

In the coming year, advocates hope to gather over 100,000 signatures in order to let voters decide in 2016. 

Will Stone is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.