On April 17, 2013 at 4.:04 pm Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) voted to sustain a Republican filibuster of S. 649, a bill sponsored by Senators Machin (D-WV) and Toomey (R-PA) to extend background checks to close the “gun show loophole.” The bill expressly prohibited the creation of any form of gun registry. Notice that the bill did not expand the legal exclusions for gun ownership — it merely required the conduct of background checks to weed out those already excluded. Who is excluded from gun ownership in Nevada? Whose “constitutional rights” might be “impinged?”
Senator Heller’s press release offered his explanation:
“When it comes to national policy choices on issues such as Constitutional liberties, gun violence and public safety, the stakes could not be higher. The enormity of this issue has weighed heavily on me. While I was home this past weekend, my family and I ate at the Carson IHOP where four people lost their lives and several were injured. The survivors of that senseless shooting in the morning hours of September 6, 2011, deserve this debate.
“I believe very strongly that our current background check system needs strengthening and improving, particularly in areas that could keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill. At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Despite the good faith efforts of Senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern. I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens. For these reasons, I cannot vote for this legislation,” said Senator Dean Heller.”
OK, Senator Heller understands that guns are not supposed to be carried by felons and the seriously mentally disturbed. Now, we need to look at those exclusions in Nevada law which apply to those who may not possess firearms.
Domestic Abusers: NRS 33.030 defines domestic abuse as understood in Nevada, and NRS 33.031 further explains that those who have an extended order (injunction) of protection from a court served on them may have to surrender their arms and may not procure replacements. Spousal abusers, are by definition in Nevada, NOT “law-abiding citizens,” and if these individuals are subject to a background check if they went to a licensed gun dealer why would we not want them to be subject to a background check at a gun show or for purchases from Internet sources?
Minor Children: NRS 202.310 prohibits the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 18. If a person under the age of 18 cannot purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer, why would we not extend the prohibition to sales at gun shows or over the Internet?
Convicted or Indicted Felon: NRS 202.362 prohibits the possession of a firearm by anyone who is currently under indictment or has been convicted of a felony. These people are obviously NOT law abiding citizens, and public safety should (and does) require that they not possess weapons.
Fugitives from Justice: NRS. 202.362 also prohibits the sale to or possession by those who are fleeing court dates and are facing prosecution. This category is equally obviously not inclusive of those law-abiding souls about whom Senator Heller expresses his concern.
Seriously mentally ill individuals: NRS 202.362 excludes from gun ownership those who have been adjudicated as mentally ill or have been committed to mental health institutions. Did not Senator Heller state he believes we should keep firearms away from those who are mentally ill? If so, then why would he join the filibuster of a bill to extend background checks to Internet sales and gun shows so mentally ill individuals who may well be a danger to themselves and others cannot procure weapons?
Undocumented immigrants: NRS 202.362 also excludes those who are in this country illegally.
So, let’s review — anyone who purchases a firearm in the state of Nevada from a licensed gun dealer has to pass a background check. Anyone who is a domestic abuser, a minor child, a convicted or indicted felon, a fugitive from justice, or is seriously mentally ill is not likely to pass a background check conducted by a legitimate licensed gun dealer. Therefore, who benefits from the gun show and Internet loophole the Machin-Toomey bill sought to close? Domestic Abusers, Minor Children, Convicted and Indicted Felons, Fugitives, the Seriously Mentally Ill, and Undocumented Immigrants.
When Senator Heller proclaims, “At the same time, I cannot support legislation that infringes upon the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” is he speaking of protecting the rights of those already excluded by Nevada Revised Statutes from the ownership of guns? Guns they could get without a background check over the Internet or at an unregulated gun show?
Surely not. However, Senator Heller is offering us his “slippery slope” NRA sponsored talking point:
“I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens.”
This is a carefully crafted sentence because Senator Heller is concerned the bill COULD lead to a national gun registry. NOTHING in the Machin-Toomey legislation would have created a gun registry — in FACT the bill specifically prohibited the creation of such a registry. The logic of Senator Heller’s position is tenuous, and redundant to the point of tediousness. Only in the perfervid imaginings of arm chair knights of the out of kilter table is the Guv’mint coming to take anyone’s guns. People who have adopted this delusion might want to remove Red Dawn from their DVD players long enough to engage in the reality of American life, unfiltered by Hollywood script writers…or the lobbyists for the gun manufacturers, so well represented by the NRA.
The adoption of the NRA delusional rationale for unlimited gun sales to anyone who can evade background checks isn’t Senator Heller’s only nod to boilerplate rhetoric.
It’s getting to be entirely predictable that should any bank, any manufacturer, any corporate interests be facing the prospect of regulation, Senator Heller will haul out his repertoire of Regulation Rhetoric.
Want to regulate the egregious behavior of irresponsible lending institutions in the wake of the Mortgage Meltdown, that by Senator Heller’s lights is “onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power.” Want to contain the damage done by exploiters and polluters? Senator Heller is sure to say that would be “onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power.” Want to enhance the prospects of women in the workplace? Expect Senator Heller to piously intone the Corporate Mantra, that would also be “onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power.” The Corporate Mantra is now applied to the manufacturers of firearms. There’s nothing new to see here.
What a shame.
*All links to Nevada Revised Statutes go to PDF documents.