Nevada Governor’s Veto Message on Expanded Background Checks for Gun Purchases

SandovalNevada’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval, has vetoed SB 221 with the following rationale. (pdf)

(Oh, by the way — please be assured that the Governor really really does support expanded background checks — just not this form of expanded background checks…but notice that for all his generalized agreement in principle, his rationale for the veto is also quite generalized.)  Here goes:

(1) The bill is an “erosion” of 2nd Amendment rights, and “may subject otherwise law-abiding citizens to criminal prosecution.”  Sound familiar?  Of course, the problem with the “law-abiding citizen” argument is that everyone without an existing criminal background becomes a criminal when he or she first violates the law.  The first time a person robs a bank, the first time a person assaults another person, the first time a person embezzles, and so forth.  Or, the first time a person sells a firearm to a felon, a fugitive, a dangerously mentally unstable person, a child without parental supervision, or an undocumented person, or a person against whom there are outstanding restrictive orders pertaining to domestic abuse.

(2) The example cited by the Governor asserts that a “law-abiding” family member must request a background check for a gun sale to another family member, and a sale to a person who has a concealed carry permit must also be supervised by a licensed gun dealer.  The response to this so-called erosion is  a resounding So What?  There is NO prohibition of the sale, and there is NO prohibition of ownership — there is only the insertion of a federally licensed gun dealer who can provide a background check into the process.

(3)  The Governor finds it burdensome that the test for the prosecution for an unlawful transfer of a gun moves from “actual knowledge” that the buyer falls into a prohibited category to a “reasonable cause to believe” a person is included in the restrictions.  In short, what the Governor is saying is that it is perfectly OK by him if the seller only “suspects” the purchaser of being a felon, a fugitive, an undocumented person, a serious unstable individual, or a person on whom there are restrictions because of domestic abuse.  Go ahead, make the transaction even if the individual buyer is in the gun show parking lot wanting to purchase a crate of inexpensive hand guns — unless the seller has “actual knowledge” these are intended to arm local or regional drug gangs what the heck?

(4) The Governor calls the penalties for violations of the background check law “severe.”  A first offense would be a gross misdemeanor, and brings with it a restriction on firearms ownership for 2 years.  That’s it. No felony record, and 24 months later the miscreant seller can happily re-arm.  A second offense would be a Class E Felony and the “gun rights” will be lost.  Note that the bill in question, SB 221, does not prohibit firearms restrictions until after conviction for the second offense.  Another thing we might note before calling this penalty severe is that Class E is as low as you can go in this state and still be in the felony category. NRS 193.130 defines a Class E felony as follows:

A category E felony is a felony for which a court shall sentence a convicted person to imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 4 years. Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of subsection 1 of NRS 176A.100, upon sentencing a person who is found guilty of a category E felony, the court shall suspend the execution of the sentence and grant probation to the person upon such conditions as the court deems appropriate. Such conditions of probation may include, but are not limited to, requiring the person to serve a term of confinement of not more than 1 year in the county jail. In addition to any other penalty, the court may impose a fine of not more than $5,000, unless a greater penalty is authorized or required by statute.

A Class E felony maximum is four years, which can be suspended and the person granted probation “as the court deems appropriate,” and the maximum fine is $5,000.   This is hardly anywhere near the “severe” punishment level in terms of Nevada’s classifications of felonies.

(5) The Governor is hinting in his last verbiage at what might be called the Efficacy Argument. The bill is unenforceable and won’t keep guns out of the hands of criminals, at the expense of potentially making those law-abiding citizens criminals themselves.  Again, every law has the potential to make a citizen a criminal if the individual engages in proscribed acts.  Secondly, no one said the intent of the law was to prevent all criminals from getting firearms — the law already prohibits criminals from obtaining weapons — all the bill said was that we should CHECK TO MAKE SURE we aren’t selling guns to those to whom firearm ownership is already restricted.

The Governor’s veto is, indeed, a craven sop to the NRA and the gun enthusiasts who blindly believe that Everyone Everywhere should be armed, and that even requiring a quick background check to insure that guns aren’t sold to those who are already felons, fugitives, undocumented persons, juveniles, spousal abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill is unendurable.

What is unendurable is the list of shootings which since the beginning of 2012 includes Norcross GA, Jackson TN, Chardon HS OH, Pittsburgh PA, North Miami FL, Okios U Oakland CA, Tulsa OK, Seattle WA, Minneapolis MN, Oak Creek WI, Aurora CO,  Newtown CT, and most recently Santa Monica CA.

If we remember back to September 6, 2011 there were four people, law abiding citizens, killed in the Carson City IHOP by a person with a history of serious mental health issues who had modified an assault style rifle to make it fully automatic.  [MAIG]

What is unendurable is a veto message which regurgitates NRA talking points without taking even a small step toward ameliorating this situation.


Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

2 responses to “Nevada Governor’s Veto Message on Expanded Background Checks for Gun Purchases

  1. Sin City Siren

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