The Nevada Progressive has been following SB 221 (pdf) in the Nevada Legislature. The bill to require background checks for gun purchases passed the State Senate on a party line 11-10 vote May 22, 2013. The Legislative Counsel summarizes the core of the bill as follows:
“Existing law authorizes a private person who wishes to transfer a firearm to another person to request the Central Repository to perform a background check on the person who wishes to acquire the firearm. (NRS 202.254) Section 8 of this bill requires, with certain exceptions which are set forth in section 7.8 of this bill, that a private person who wishes to transfer a firearm to another person request that a federally licensed firearms dealer submit a request for a background check to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.” (Abstract here)
This shouldn’t be too difficult a bill to comprehend. There are just a few categories of individuals who cannot legally obtain firearms in this state: Felons, Fugitives, Dangerously Mentally Ill, Undocumented Persons, and Minors. Someone should probably add “individuals on the Terrorist Watch List?” Be that as it may — these categories preclude gun ownership in the interest of public safety, except of course if these self-same individuals avail themselves of gun show parking lots, Internet sales, and other gun sellers and traffickers who don’t want to be bothered or inconvenienced with background checks.
Objections range from the bizarre to the banal. Ammoland calls for opposition based on fearmongering:
“SB 221 will in effect create a registration system of all firearms transferred privately. This bill also makes revisions to Nevada law regarding mental health. An individual who fails to comply with the new background check transfer requirements would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for a period of two years after being found guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”
Actually, that would be “no” — there is no registration system established in the bill. Weasel words, like “in effect,” simply allow the writer latitude to assert — without substantiation — that any background check will start the rock rolling down the declivitous slope to Registration.
The Daily Caller is a bit more rabid on the subject:
“SB 221 carries severe penalties for violations that could result in a loss of Second Amendment rights. An individual who fails to comply with the new background check transfer requirements would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and prohibited from possessing a firearm for a period of two years. The second offense would be a felony, resulting in loss of Second Amendment rights.”
Yes, people who violate the law, whether the statute refers to a misdemeanor or a felony, usually lose rights. Commit a felony in Nevada and a person loses all manner of rights. For example, felons must follow the provisions of NRS 213.155 in order to vote. There is a large difference between “losing a right” and common sense restrictions on “rights” such that liberty doesn’t devolve into license. This concept is often missed on the radical right during discussions of the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
There are no other rights specified in the U.S. Constitution which are not subject to common sense restrictions. Free speech does not support slander. Free press does not allow libel. Freedom of religion doesn’t allow a person to practice human sacrifice. Freedom of assembly doesn’t mean mobs can riot at will. My home may be my castle — but if my neighbor sees stolen goods in my garage and calls the police none of my 4th Amendment rights are violated. I can’t be tried twice for the same crime, but if I rob three different house the District Attorney may be pleased to try me for three separate crimes, and nothing in the 5th Amendment would prevent that.
The 8th Amendment says I can’t be subjected to “excessive bail,” but if I commit a truly heinous — Headline News worthy — crime of the century, nothing prevents the judge from assigning a bail for which I don’t have the funds in my checking account.
Even the 13th Amendment, the one prohibiting involuntary servitude, has limits. Should I be convicted by a jury of my peers of my Headline News worthy crime of the month, then I can expect to be “serving” the state, if not breaking up rocks or making license plates, then in some other tasks assigned to me.
In short, as discussed previously, there are no Constitutional rights which don’t require some level of personal responsibility. Extrapolated to its conclusion the “Second Amendment” exceptionalism would reduce us to medieval entities, each armed to the maximum, each assured of perhaps not so much the righteousness of its cause but its efficacy in arms. Even a rather conservative U.S. Supreme Court hasn’t taken the Second Amendment interpretation to these absurd extremes.
The Right Question
The essential question before the Nevada Legislature is whether or not we want felons, fugitives, the dangerously mentally ill, undocumented persons, and juveniles to have convenient access to deadly weapons?
The sane answer would be NO. The sane vote in the Nevada Assembly on SB 221 would be YES.
More News From Gun Land
Meanwhile the tragedies compound —
“The Lyon County sheriff’s office is investigating the shooting death of a juvenile in Dayton over the weekend. Deputies say a preliminary investigation suggests it was an accidental shooting. Officers say they were called to the scene on Riverpark Parkway about 11 a.m. Sunday. No other details have been released. The names of those involved are being withheld because of their ages.” [RGJ]
“Authorities were searching for at least two gunmen who walked up to the door of a Northern California home and opened fire, killing a 10-year-old girl and injuring her parents.
“Whoever these gunmen were, they were directly outside the front door,” Sacramento County sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jason Ramos said Sunday. “This was not a drive-by. These gunmen approached the house and shot inside.” [Las Vegas Sun]
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has taken it upon himself to catalog incidents of gun violence in the U.S. The entries are depressing, but informative. If even a few of the tragic incidents logged in Nocera’s Gun Reports could have been prevented by expanding background checks then we would be able to reduce the level of the misery meter for families across this country.
Better still, if we could bring ourselves to (1) ban military style assault weapons, (2) limit ammunition capacity, (3) enact provisions in statute concerning the safe storage of firearms, and (4) prevent more gun trafficking from states with lenient to non-existent gun regulations to urban and suburban neighborhoods, then Nocera’s reports could be diminished significantly. IF.