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Impassioned Debate on Background-Check Law for NV Gun Sales

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Sandra Jaregui, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting, speaks at a press conference Tuesday for supporters of stricter gun-sale background checks. (Annette Magnus)
Sandra Jaregui, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting, speaks at a press conference Tuesday for supporters of stricter gun-sale background checks. (Annette Magnus)
 By Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV - Producer, Contact
February 13, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. - Dozens of Nevadans on all sides of the gun debate testified Tuesday in a daylong hearing before a joint session of the state Legislature on a proposal to tighten up background checks on gun sales. The new law would include background checks for private sales, and those online and at gun shows.

Andrew Woods, executive director of the group Save Lives Nevada, said Senate Bill 143 would do all that, and close loopholes in the federal background-check laws. He said it follows the lead of 19 other states plus the District of Columbia.

"In those states that have background checks," he said, "they have a statistically significant decrease in the amount of women getting shot by an intimate partner, law enforcement getting killed by handguns, as well as gun trafficking."

Voters approved background checks in the form of a ballot measure in 2016 but, at the time, Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt blocked it, saying it was unenforceable. Opponents of Senate Bill 143 say it makes life difficult for law-abiding gun owners, and won't deter black-market sales of guns to criminals.

There is no word yet on when the bill will receive a vote. Current Gov. Steve Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford are on record in support.

The law contains exemptions for most gun transfers involving family, sport shooting and hunting buddies. Woods said the new law particularly targets online sales and those by private sellers at gun shows.

"They meet up in, like, a parking lot or they'll just pay cash and buy a gun," he said, "or, a lot of times outside of certain gun shows, in the parking lot, people are selling guns out of their trunks."

A 2017 report by the Violence Policy Center found that Nevada has the nation's second-highest rate of women being fatally shot by an intimate partner. Last October, Las Vegas witnessed the deadliest mass shooting in the nation's history.

The text of SB 143 is online at leg.state.nv.us.

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