Nevadans will be asked to weigh in on Question 1, a gun control proposition that will appear on the ballot in November.
Question 1’s advocates present it as an innocent measure meant to close a “loophole.” Nothing could be further from the truth — this is unnecessary gun control that will cost Nevadans time, money and freedom.
Like most of us, I agree there should be background checks when an individual acquires a weapon from a gun dealer. This measure goes so much further because it requires a background check nearly any time a gun leaves the physical possession of its current possessor. For instance, Nevadans who want to loan their gun to a cousin or trusted, lifelong friend would be required to perform a background check on the cousin or friend before they could lend the gun, even if only for a few hours.
To underscore the point, the law is so poorly written that when the gun is being returned to its legal owner, the person who borrowed it must run a second, subsequent background check to legally return that gun. That doesn’t make very much sense.
The law is really not focused on background checks of potential criminals or closing loopholes in the law. Consider that under the law someone like me who has already gone though a background check and satisfied the other legal requirements to obtain a concealed-carry weapons permit must once again undertake the time and expense of another background check every time I wish to borrow or use a friend's gun.
The law is also unlikely to deliver on the promise of keeping guns out of the hands of bad guys or reducing crime — something I wish the law actually addressed. Eugene Volokh, a noted legal scholar at UCLA, published an article in the Washington Post that concluded gun control laws like Question 1 have no impact on reducing crime. Volokh is in agreement with the vast majority of Nevada’s law enforcement community.
Sixteen of Nevada’s sheriffs are on the record opposing Question 1, along with the governor and attorney general. Four of the district attorneys in Nevada who have weighed in on Question 1 have encouraged voters to reject the measure. Clark County’s undersheriff, Kevin McMahill, has argued publicly that the measure will have no significant impact on crime.
The people who deal with law enforcement in their day-to-day lives understand that nearly every gun used during a crime is acquired illegally, meaning criminals go around existing laws to acquire their firearms. The University of Pittsburgh and the Department of Justice both have conducted studies showing that 80 percent of guns used in a crime come from illegal sources. There is no evidence that Question 1 would stop criminals from continuing to break the law to acquire a firearm. That's what criminals do.
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What will the law do? Criminalize the safe, innocent transfer of guns, which happens hundreds or thousands of times a week in Nevada between employer and employee, friends and family members. The only people likely to be affected by this law are those who are already predisposed to obey the law. That’s not fair. Law-abiding Nevadans shouldn’t be asked to shoulder further red tape and expense. We should demand laws that target criminal behavior, not monitor individuals who haven’t broken the law.
I stand with Nevada’s law enforcement community. I know — as they know — that this law will not make Nevadans safer. That’s why I am urging all Nevadans to oppose Question 1 this November.
Mark Hutchison is Nevada’s lieutenant governor.