Today Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt issued an opinion on Nevada’s new “universal” background check law, saying the initiative, as written, is “unenforceable.”
This is what happens when you allow uninformed, out-of-state lobbying groups that prey on people’s emotions to write your laws. NRA Nevadans for Freedom has been saying all along that this poorly written initiative was drafted without any input from Nevada law enforcement. Not a single sheriff supported Bloomberg’s Question One.
The director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, James Wright, requested the formal opinion from the Attorney General on two questions:
“First, does the Background Check Act allow the Nevada “Point of Contact” program to perform background checks for private-party sales or transfers of firearms conducted by federal firearms licensees? Second, if the Department is legally authorized to perform these checks, may it charge fees for doing so?”
Laxalt, responded “no” to both questions, stating the Act was written in such a way that all private transfer background checks must be conducted by the federally administered National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, as opposed to being conducted through the Nevada “Point of Contact” system.
Nevada’s “Point of Contact” system checks applicant names through both NICS as well as the state database of prohibited persons. As the Reno Gazette-Journal explains, “When someone buys a gun from a federally licensed dealer in Nevada, the dealer contacts the Nevada Central Repository. Someone there runs the name through a number of databases, including those for state mental health records and misdemeanor domestic battery convictions.”
The new law was written so that dealers cannot access the state system, and must rely solely on the federal process. Initiative supporters avoided utilizing the state system because had they done so, Question One would have required the filing of a fiscal note, explaining to voters how much the new background checks would cost the state.
The FBI recently sent a letter to the Nevada Department of Public Safety saying, in short, that the FBI would not conduct background checks on private firearms transfers as called for in the new law. In the letter, the FBI noted that the State of Nevada “… cannot dictate how federal resources are applied.”
Laxalt concluded his opinion by stating that because the FBI would not conduct the checks, the law is “unenforceable” and, therefore, “citizens may not be prosecuted for their inability to comply with the Act….”
There does not appear to be an easy fix to this over-reach by Question One’s proponents. Under Nevada State law, laws passed by ballot initiative cannot be altered for three years.
As we review the Attorney General’s opinion more closely, we will provide more insight into how law-abiding Nevadans should proceed when making a private firearms transfer under the new law.