Tag Archives: SB 221

Guns, Nevada, and The Law – Does SB 221 Matter?

In the wake of the shooting of two police officers and an innocent civilian in Las Vegas, several voices have questioned the veto of Nevada’s SB 221 — does this matter?

On June 13, 2013 Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed SB 221, (pdf) a bill to improve the background check process for gun sales in the state.  Passage of the bill was a close thing in the State Senate, the May 22 vote was 11-10.  The Assembly voted on SB 221 June 3rd, and the bill passed 23-19.

“No” votes were cast in the state Senate by Brower, Cegavske, Pete Goicoechea, Donald Gustavson, Scott Hammond, Joseph Hardy, Mark Hutchison, Ben Kieckhefer, Michael Roberson, and James Settelmeyer, [Senate vote]

Members of the state Assembly who cast “no” votes were: Paul Anderson, Richard Carrillo. Skip Daly, Wesley Duncan, John Ellison, Michele Fiore, Tom Grady, John Hambrick, Ira Hansen, Cresent Hardy, Pat Hickey, Randy Kirner, Peter Livermore, James Ohrenschall, James Oscarson, Michael Sprinkle, Lynn Stewart, Jim Wheeler, and Melissa Woodbury.

Opponents of the measure generally clung to arguments about “freedom,” and the inviolability of the 2nd Amendment.  Questions were raised about whether the law would “address” the problem directly, and would this have been at the expense of responsible gun owners and dealers.

Would the provisions of SB 221 if implemented have prevented the tragic loss of two Las Vegas law enforcement officer and a perfectly innocent civilian?  IT DOESN’T MATTER.  Here’s why:

## It’s a logical and policy mistake to attempt to link the reduction of gun violence in this state, or in this nation, to any one piece of legislation pertaining to any one incident.  As long as proponents of gun proliferation man the barricades of the single instance/single solution battlements nothing will be done.  If the standard by which a bill is judged is whether or not it would have prevented a single instance of gun violence then the answer will invariably be negative.  Why? Because no legislation is intrinsically capable of addressing all the nuances of its application — that’s why we have lawyers and judges.   The “standard” proposition is a red herring, not a logical argument.

Senator Hardy said his opposition was based on the proposition that the bill didn’t address the acute psychotic shooter and we can’t predict when such an individual might snap.  In short, if the bill didn’t pass the “Single Incident/Single Solution Test,”  it was unworthy of his support. [SenTest pdf]

## Continuing to conceive of gun violence incidents in terms of causality is to occupy the ethereal without addressing the reality.  If we start looking for what was the proximate cause of the shooting in Las Vegas we will be binding ourselves to the tree while avoiding a discussion of how the forest became polluted.  We know the proximate cause already — two addled idiots armed with lethal weapons shot and killed  two police officers and an innocent civilian.  The word we need to adopt is correlation, a word which often doesn’t go down well with purists and ideologues who want certainty.  Good luck with that.  Why is the differentiation between causality and correlation important? There’s a study for that from the American Journal of Medicine..

“It should be noted that the study couldn’t tie guns to gun deaths in terms of causation but the correlation of civilian gun ownership and gun deaths is not deniable. Also of note, the study showed that mental illness does also seem to correlate with gun deaths, but the correlation isn’t nearly as high as simple gun ownership.”

What do we know? There is a high correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths, and we know that there’s a correlation — just not as high — for mental illness and gun deaths. *

## The potential efficacy of SB 221, as with all other legislation, is also connected to the statutory matrix in which it is placed.  For example, the enaction of legislation mandating comprehensive background checks is moot if funding isn’t appropriated for its implementation.  Or, what would be comprehensive about background checks if there were no ‘backgrounds’ which would exclude a person from firearms ownership?

Do we toss up our hands and say that because we couldn’t get final adoption of a comprehensive background check bill out of Carson City this necessarily means there is nothing we can do?  Of course not, that would be to adopt the same flawed logic of the opponents of gun safety legislation, “if we couldn’t get that done we can’t do anything.”

The passage and adoption of SB 211 would matter IF it were a piece of a larger, more comprehensive, perspective on gun violence in the state of Nevada.

What Does Matter?

First, let’s unload the weighty sacks of rhetorical rubbish which require perfect solutions to problems created by imperfect people.  There is agreement that current Nevada law restricting arms sales to felons, fugitives, undocumented aliens, juveniles without parental supervision, and the mentally ill.   If we are in agreement about this level of restraint, then SB 221 would have made perfect sense — we check the backgrounds in all gun sales to exclude the people we already agree should not be buying firearms.   Might this be inconvenient for some people? — perhaps.  So what? Who wants to be identified as the person or business who sold the next deranged shooter the firearm?

Secondly, let’s admit that there are people who may temporarily have issues such that owning or possessing  a firearm is not a good idea, for themselves or anyone else.  We already allow the courts the authority to temporarily remove firearms from homes in which there has been serious and documented spousal abuse.  We could, if we were serious about gun safety in this state, amend our statutory matrix to provide means by which the family of a potential suicide could be empowered to seek the removal of firearms from the person’s home.   We could, again if we’re getting serious, allow law enforcement agencies to apply for temporary firearm removal from homes occupied by those who have “scared the Hell out of neighbors, friends, and family” because of their delusional rants, writings, or other forms of communication.

Third, we might also amend our statutory matrix to incorporate the limitation of ammunition capacity.  There are two highly publicized instances (Tucson, Seattle) in which shooters were captured while trying to re-load.  This element wouldn’t eliminate the tragedy altogether, but would mitigate the casualty level.

Fourth, during the Bush Administration sought and got a gun manufacturers shield law — after some victims and municipalities successfully brought litigation — in October 2005 Wayne LaPierre announced that the 2nd Amendment was is “in the best shape it’s been in decades…” [NYT] The gun manufacturers might have been in good shape, but local and state governments watching health and public safety budgets drained by gun violence certainly weren’t.  This special shield law could be repealed to create a stronger legislative matrix for gun safety statutes.

Finally, the sad history of SB 221 matters if it convinces those who advocate for gun safety legislation that “nothing can be done” in the face of fanatical opposition from gun manufacturers.  This is far from the truth, and far from the function of government to secure domestic tranquility. [NVconst]


* For those who want more information on correlations, see here and here.


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Sandoval’s Promise: Nevada gun laws and mental health services

There’s nothing simple about the issues involved in the delivery of mental health care, the availability of firearms, and the tragic connections between the two.  Nevada has already experienced this.  In early September 2011, thirty-three year old Eduardo Sencion of Carson City walked into the local IHOP restaurant and killed four (including himself) and wounded eight others, of the twelve people injured or killed were five members of the National Guard. [ABC]  The entire incident took 85 seconds during which Sencion fired his assault rifle at those in the restaurant, at a passing motorcyclist, and finally took his own life. [RGJ]  Sencion’s Norinco MAK90 had been altered to fire as an automatic weapon. And then there was this chilling detail:

“Doctors diagnosed Sencion with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 18, and he took medications to control the voices that told him to do bad things, (Sheriff) Furlong said. But toxicology tests revealed that none of those drugs was in his system on the day of the shooting, the sheriff said.” [RGJ]

On October 21, 2013 seventh grader Jose Reyes took the 9mm semi-automatic hand gun he found at home to school, he wounded two students, killed a teacher, and then committed suicide.  Reyes previously told his family felt bullied by other children, and at one point was prescribed a 10 mg dosage of Prozac.  One of the elements of particular interest: ” Police believe Reyes used a family computer to search the phrases “top 10 evil children,” “bullying,” “super columbine massacre role playing game,” and “school shootings.” [RGJ]

There’s always a danger in comparing elements of disparate tragedies, but there are legitimate points of comparison.  Both shooters were male. Both were young when diagnosed with mental health issues.  Both used firearms.  Both were citizens of a state in which mental health care funding is scarce at best, and all but non-existent at worst:

Dr. Tracey Green, the state health officer, said there is not enough space in the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas and other hospitals, so mentally ill people wait and wait in emergency rooms for the next available beds. In January alone, an average of 139 people have been waiting each day on Legal 2000 three-day holds. She noted additional beds soon will open, but not enough to deal with the total problem. [LVRJ] (January 29, 2014)

Then on February 20, 2014 the walk in clinic at the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital in Las Vegas closed its doors. [Channel8]  By February 27, 2014 state officials were “scrambling” to find alternatives and options for mental health care treatment. [RGJ] On May 20, 2014 the Governor’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council made 16 recommendations to help sort the problem. [RGJ] This in a state already notorious for shipping its ‘mental health problems’ out to other communities. [SacBee]

The report’s recommendations included suggestions ranging from providing services to the most chronically ill, to improved behavioral and mental health services in Nevada schools.

“The  Council  recommends  expansion  of  high  intensity case  management  and  housing services for  the  heaviest  users  of  the  most  expensive  behavioral  health  services  (i.e.,  emergency  room,  jail,  and  inpatient  admissions.)  We  especially  recommend  expansion  of  existing  programs such  as  Psychiatric  Assertive  Community  Treatment  (PACT)  teams  and  Mental  Health  Courts.”  [BHWC pdf]

and noted:

In  Nevada,  studies  have  suggested  that  19.3 percent of  elementary  school  children  have  behavioral  health  care  needs  and  over  30 percent of  adolescents  self reported  significant  levels  of  anxiety  or  depression.  According  to  the  Clark  County  Community  Mental  Health  Center,  in  2009,  almost  one quarter  of  Nevada’s  public  middle  school  students  seriously  thought  about  killing  themselves,  more  than  30 percent had  used  alcohol  or  illegal  drugs,  and  over  13 percent had attempted suicide.  … Child  mental  health related  visits to  hospital  emergency  rooms  have  increased  steadily  in  Nevada  over  the  last  five  years.    There  is  also  an  increasing  trend  of children  requiring  a  costly  in patient  admission  to  a  hospital  due  to  a  mental  health  crisis. [BHWC pdf]

None of the suggestions come cheaply.  The implementation of many of them will require assistance from the Federal government. The activation of some will require expenditures from state funds, and from the ACA expansion of Medicaid.  However, when compared to the human costs associated with the IHOP and Sparks Middle School shootings, it would be more expensive not to appropriate the requisite amount of funding.

After reading through the report, and its recommendations it’s impossible not to grapple with the feeling that the Council made its suggestions for the most affordable level of mental health care services for Nevadans, not necessarily what would constitute recommendations for providing the best level of mental health care for citizens of the state.  Perhaps this is yet another example of how the Austerians have won the day — when we speak not about how to be the BEST in the nation, but only to how we can address immediate needs and cobble together solutions to alleviate the current crisis.   The Austerity Enthusiasts may be pleased with the modest nature of the suggestions for improvement, but the report retains its minimalist tone, as if we have somehow lost the capacity to Think Big, in a Can Do nation.

And, so we muddle along.  And so do those who might follow Seung-Hui Cho (VA Tech), Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook), George Hennard (Lubbock TX), James Huberty (San Ysidro), Eric Harris and Dylan Kleibold (Columbine), Aaron Alexis (Washington Navy Yard),  James E. Holmes (Aurora), and Joseph Wesbecker (Louisville) Gerald Loughner (Phoenix) and Elliot Rodger (Isla Vista).  Not to glorify their names, but to illustrate: Young to middle aged, male, armed, and mentally ill.  But, what do we really know?

We know that there have been at least 62 mass shootings since 1982, and they have taken place in 30 states, and in most of these cases the gunman obtained firearms legally. [WaPo]

We know that those states which have stricter gun laws have fewer incidents of gun deaths. [Atlantic]

We know that while some of the most high profile perpetrators of gun violence are/were mentally ill — mental illness in itself isn’t a major factor, indeed there is no statistical correlation at the state level between mental illness and gun deaths. [Atlantic] However, it should be reasonably obvious that if gun purchasing restrictions are lax or nearly non-existent then more mentally ill individuals will have easier access to lethal weapons.

We know that there but for the diligence of concerned parents there might have been another Nevada tragedy in the offing after a Reno police officer sold a gun to a mentally ill young man.  [RGJ]

We also know that Governor Sandoval kept his promise to the NRA and vetoed SB 221 on June 13, 2013, which would have expanded background checks for firearms purchases because it might have “burdened” our citizens and impinged on their 2nd Amendment rights. [LVRJ]


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Four Steps to a Safer Society

Assault RifleDon’t talk to me about “mass shootings are just rare manifestations of mental illness,” unless you intend to offer suggestions concerning how we cope with those suffering from mental illness, emotional problems, or behavioral issues.   I have in mind some notions which seem like sound judgment,  not necessarily founded in any specialized knowledge of the subject.

#1. Adequately fund mental health care services at the state and national level.

Nevada, currently being sued by San Francisco for its dubious practice of “transporting” mentally ill individuals beyond its jurisdiction, [NBC]  has been warned — this from a mental health professional back in April 2013:

“Dr. Dale Carrison, the chief of staff and head of emergency medicine at University Medical Center, is more blunt.  “The mental health system has been broken since I got to Las Vegas 22 years ago,” Carrison said. “There aren’t a lot of options for people. Every time they cut the budget they cut the mental health budget first. We do a very poor job of evaluating them and treating them. At some point, you’ve got to say the state just doesn’t care.” [LVRJ]

Nevada wasn’t (isn’t) alone in its refusal to enact budgets which competently address the problems associated with mental illness and substance abuse.  NAMI issued its 2011 Report (pdf)  citing cuts in California’s mental health services totaled $587.4 million, New York cut its budget by $132 million, Illinois cut $113.7 million, and Arizona cut its mental health care budget by $108.4 million.  Nevada made the list of the largest cuts as a percentage of its total mental health care budget:  (1) Alaska by 35%, (2) South Carolina by 23%, (3) Arizona 23%, (4) Washington, D.C. 19%, (5) Nevada 17%, (6) Kansas 16%, (7) California 16%, (8) Illinois 15%, (9) Mississippi 15%, (10) Hawaii 12.1%.   We ought not take pride in being on this “Top Ten List.”

The situation at the national level isn’t much better.  Already at a parsimonious level, the sequestration of federal funds for non-defense discretionary categories further stretches already strained mental health research and service budgets.  Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association, issued this warning about further cuts to mental health care funding:

“These cuts will be disastrous to communities and individuals living with mental health and substance use conditions. States have already cut mental health budgets by a combined $4 billion over the past three years-the largest single combined reduction to mental health spending since de-institutionalization in the 1970s. Cuts enacted by sequestration are estimated to reduce non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding anywhere from 7.5 to 12 percent across-the-board. Given one in every four Americans lives with a mental health or substance use condition, and more than 67 percent of adults and 80 percent of children who need services do not receive treatment, maintaining discretionary federal funding for mental health and substance abuse services is pivotal to ensure citizens have access to behavioral health care.”  (emphasis added)

What efficacy do we expect from a system in which we have reduced the allocation of resources by the largest amount in the past 3 decades?  There are about 316,000,000 Americans, and if approximately 25% need mental health care or substance abuse assistance then that’s nearly 79 million people in need of help and care.  If at present 67% of adults and 80% of children who need help aren’t getting it now, what makes us think that sequestering funds for services and further limiting the funds available for mental, behavioral, and substance abuse assistance will make the situation any better?

#2.  Improve the record keeping and coordination between mental health entities and law enforcement services.   SB 221 enacted by the Nevada state legislature would have helped, but the NRA beholden Governor vetoed it.   It’s going to take personnel to get this done.  People are going to have to be hired to do data entry, to coordinate information sharing, and to maintain the integrity of the records.  Again, if we’re serious about resolving the problems associated with mentally ill persons securing deadly weapons then this is an expenditure which makes sense.

#3. Implement the provisions of the Affordable Care Act which deal with health insurance coverage of mental health care services.    If we are serious about providing adequate mental health care services to individuals who might hurt themselves or others, then it’s fulsomely obvious that 41 votes to repeal, delay, or defund the provisions of the Affordable Care are patently silly.

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance corporations to issue policies which cover depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no extra cost.  Further, coverage for mental health and substance abuse is expanded and given the federal parity protections.  Going a step further, an insurance corporation may not decline coverage for pre-existing conditions, including mental illness.

#4. Enact common sense restrictions on the possession of firearms.   (a) Require background checks for all gun sales.  Legitimate, honest gun dealers already do this. The illegitimate, and dishonest ones need to be put out of business.  There is nothing “onerous” about a background check — it takes a matter of minutes, and if our record keeping systems are functional, then some people who should not possess firearms can be weeded out before they cause injury to themselves or others.  (b) Enact limits on the ammunition capacity.   If I haven’t shot “the burglar” after 15 rounds, the chances are I’m not going to.  The only thing I’m going to accomplish is to do more damage to my property than the erstwhile hypothetical burglar ever dreamed of doing.  (c) Crack down on gun trafficking.  There’s an unhealthy level of profit for people who traffic in stolen guns, and who transport guns both stolen and purchased in states with lax gun sale requirements.  New York City police recently arrested two gun smugglers from North and South Carolina who tried to offload 254 guns into the NYC market. [CNN] (d) Ban the sale of “assault weapons.”  Yes, a person can be killed by a bullet from a single shot .22 caliber gun; BUT weapons which are designed to, or can be easily modified for, rapid fire merely serve to increase the carnage.

A few common sense steps might reverse the trends in this chart from GunPolicy.Org.

Gun Death Chart 2*Alpers, Philip and Marcus Wilson. 2013. Guns in the United States: Facts, Figures and Firearm Law. Sydney School of Public Health, The University of Sydney. GunPolicy.org, 27 August. Accessed 18 September 2013.

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Loaded Language and Other Matters

two centsHere we go again. This time in Nevada, and this time in regard to the expansion of background checks for private gun sales.   The “gun enthusiasts” are pummeling the Governor’s office with vehement Veto It messages — what else is new? [LasVegasSun]  The Nevada Progressive has been following the course of SB 221 and reports that Governor Sandoval has categorized the bill as “overly broad.”

What might “overly broad” mean?  Here’s yet another reminder that we have only a few classes of individuals who are prohibited from gun ownership in this state — felons, fugitives, dangerously mentally ill, children, undocumented aliens,  and a few who are temporarily  restricted as a result of spousal abuse incidents.   Is the Governor contending that restricting individuals in these classes constitutes an “overly broad” definition of prohibited purchasers in private sales over the Internet or at gun shows?

Senator Heller (R-American Bankers Association) has started to file his amendments to the Senate version of the Immigration Reform bill — The Ralston Report has his initial venture.   Senator Rand “Aqua Buddha” Paul (R-Tea Party Patio) has his own idea about amendments to the bill, such as one to make it all but impossible to declare the borders secure enough to allow immigration reform measures.  [WaPo]  It seems as though immigration reform opponents won’t be satisfied until the U.S. Border Patrol adopts the infrastructure and personnel policies of the old East German regime?

Meanwhile, Senator Schumer (D-NY) has declared an amendment to the bill by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) a “non-starter” and declines any suggestion that the majority would want to negotiate with the Texas Senator. [TPM]

Another Republican Ladies Day Moment:  Pregnancy as the result of rape shouldn’t be a consideration because it’s really rare… Or, in the words of Arizona Representative Trent Franks:

“Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said.

Franks continued: “But when you make that exception, there’s usually a requirement to report the rape within 48 hours. And in this case that’s impossible because this is in the sixth month of gestation. And that’s what completely negates and vitiates the purpose for such an amendment.”  [WaPo]

What should be negated and vitiated is the troglodyte perspective of throwbacks like Representative Franks?  A bit more at Think Progress. Another day, another splendid example of Republican Outreach to women and ethnic minorities.  Click over to Perrspectives for a lively column on how “Arrested Development” explains today’s GOP.

Representative Franks isn’t the only one channeling his Inner Akin, the Governor of Wisconsin would like to enact requirements for transvaginal ultrasounds and to shut down Wisconsin’s health providers who offer abortion services. [Think Progress] The link back includes this bit of information about the progress of the Wisconsin bill:

Senate debate of the ultrasound proposal came a week after Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, introduced it.

“Sara Finger, executive director of the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health, said that gave her less than 24 hours to analyze the bill and prepare her testimony for hearings.

“This speed of passage sends a clear signal that these legislators want to deny any efforts to ensure due process and are refusing to allow sufficient time for medical providers, advocates, women and their partners to truly weigh in on the anticipated damaging effects of this legislation.” Finger said in a statement.” [Twin Cities]

Yes, most anti-abortion bills do tend to move quickly in GOP controlled legislatures.   See also: Ed Kilgore’s post “Back to the Poisoned Well.”

Under-reported:  With all the press attending to the “surprise” revelation that the NSA collects phone numbers, duration of calls, and destinations … is Anyone Really Surprised? — an unheralded report from HUD is receiving scant attention:

Earlier this year, we highlighted how the racial wealth gap tripled from 1984-2009, mainly due to structural barriers to wealth accumulation for households of color, including rampant housing discrimination that constrained where African-American families could live and restricted access to affordable home loans. A new report from HUD shows the extent of housing discrimination against people of color. The report found that people of color looking for homes are told about and shown fewer homes and apartments than their white counterparts. This type of discrimination raises the costs of the housing search for people of color and restricts their housing options.  [Demos Policy]

This wasn’t really all that surprising either.

Why DB hasn’t discussed the NSA flap?  I will when I stop yawning.  Congress approved the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, and the Protect America Act of 2007 — Mr. Snowden’s scenery chewing performance notwithstanding, he simply “revealed” the authorized programs exist. Did anyone think they wouldn’t?

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SB 221: Governor Ready To Fire Away?

GunsSB 221 (pdf) passed as amended in the Nevada Assembly on a 23-19 vote, June 3, 2013.  The bill to expand background checks for private sales of firearms now faces a veto threat from Governor Sandoval.  [LVRJ]  On what grounds?

Perhaps we might speculate about the check list of NRA friendly mantras the Governor might incorporate into such a message?

___ 1. The bill will be an onerous burden on law abiding citizens who might otherwise be likely to purchase a firearm.   There are two problems with this argument. First, there’s the “onerous” standard, and secondly who’s a law abiding citizen?

Most background checks are quick and easy.  To say that the standard background check done by a licensed firearms dealer is “onerous” is tantamount to asserting that anything less than instant gratification is “onerous.”  Remember, we’re checking to see if a person is a felon, a fugitive, a minor, a dangerously mentally ill individual, or a person who has restrictions on purchases because of a history of spousal abuse.

The sorting out of who is eligible to purchase a firearm in Nevada takes us to the second problem with the contention: Who is a law abiding citizen?  If a law abiding citizen is one without any history of being a felon, is not now a fugitive, and is not adjudged a spousal abuser under current statutory terms, then he or she must be “law abiding.”  This definition pretty much includes anyone walking freely amongst us.  If so few are actually “restricted” by the legislation then how does the burden become “onerous?”

___ 2. The enaction of expanded background checks will not solve the epidemic of gun violence in this country.  The one size fits all test is impossible.

In fact, the one size fits all test is a semantic trap.  If the legislation is drafted broadly, so as to incorporate gun trafficking, high capacity ammunition devices of various kinds, assault style rifles, expanded background checks, and other language to reduce gun violence, then the opponents immediately declare a nefarious all out assault on 2nd Amendment FREEDOM.  If the legislation is drafted narrowly, to address single issues among the many facets of the gun violence problem, then by definition “it won’t work” because it is too circumscribed to “solve” the entire issue.

___ 3.  SB 221 is a stepping off point on the slippery slope to gun registration, which is a departure point for gun confiscation.  No.  There are no other rights specified in the U.S. Constitution’s first ten amendments which are unrestricted in any form.  The slippery slope argument is grounded in fear and cultivated by propaganda.  No rational advocate of curtailing gun violence is speaking of any route to confiscation, notwithstanding the hysterical hyperbole of the NRA.

___ 4. Prohibited buyers won’t submit to background checks.  That’s the point, as succinctly made by the author of this LTE in the Reno Gazette Journal.  If prohibited buyers can’t purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer because of background check requirements AND they can’t purchase one in a private sale covered by universal background checks then the likelihood that the individual who shouldn’t have a gun is restrained from getting hold of one is increased — and that’s the function of background checks.

Here’s what the bill actually does:

“AN ACT relating to public safety; requiring a court to transmit within 5 business days certain records of adjudication concerning a person’s mental health to the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History for certain purposes relating to the purchase or possession of a firearm; authorizing the inclusion, correction and removal of the information in such records in each appropriate database of the National Crime Information Center; requiring each agency of criminal justice to submit information relating to records of criminal history within 60 days after the date of the conviction; requiring certain persons to request a background check before transferring a firearm to another person under certain circumstances; prohibiting certain persons from having possession, custody or control of a firearm; prohibiting certain persons from selling a firearm under certain circumstances; revising the functions of the Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services of the Department of Health and Human Services; requiring a mental health professional to notify certain persons when a patient makes certain explicit threats of imminent serious physical harm or death; providing penalties; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

The bill addresses the reporting and updating of information from the judicial system and the mental health system such that dealers will have access to the best information about a buyer in as timely a manner as humanly possible.  The entire point of the measure is to assist legitimate law abiding gun dealers run background checks to sort out the felons, the fugitives, the seriously and dangerously mentally ill, and minors from procuring firearms.

Personally, I can’t think of a single firearms dealer who would even remotely want to sell a gun to a felon, a fugitive, a dangerously mentally ill individual, or a kid who’s shopping without parental permission.  I can’t imagine a licensed firearms dealer promoting his inventory to those who have histories of violent domestic abuse, or to a person intending suicide.

At this juncture in the argument we need to differentiate between “law abiding” and “responsible.”  To be law abiding one need only to have not broken any laws.  To be responsible requires more effort.

Who is responsible for Manuel Mata’s acquisition of a gun, a gun used to kill his girlfriend, her daughter, injure a 4 year old child, and then used to attempt suicide? [LVRJ]  Mr. Mata had a previous arrest.  Was it for a felony? Might his purchase have been more unlikely with expanded background checks in place?  Or, was the arrest for a misdemeanor charge, meaning that according to Nevada statutes he was still technically within the “law abiding” category?

We’d be far better off promoting the notion that being a responsible gun owner is preferred over merely being a law abiding one, and that those who are responsible citizens should be protected from the law abiding albeit irresponsible ones.   Governor Sandoval could promote this by signing SB 221 into law — time will tell if he has the political courage and moral fortitude to do so.

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