Gun-control czar Michael Bloomberg must be peeved. Incredibly peeved.
After all, the billionaire business magnate dumped nearly $20 million into a Nevada universal background check ballot initiative that as of last week has been suspended from taking effect by Attorney General Paul Laxalt.
Laxalt put a hold on the universal background check, known as “Question 1,” because the dum-dums who wrote it failed to do their homework. Seriously, the text of the ballot measure is so ill-conceived that Laxalt had no choice but to shelf it — indefinitely.
More on that in a moment but let me back up and say that the point of Question 1 was to criminalize private transfers. In other words, gun sales or transfers between private parties would be unlawful unless the prospective buyer underwent a background check at a gun store from a licensed dealer.
So, for example, you want to sell a firearm to your neighbor Bob. Instead of simply selling Bob the gun or even letting him borrow the gun, under Question 1, Bob would have to pass a background check before the transfer could lawfully occur. Most likely, that would involve you and Bob taking a drive to your local gun store and paying the gun store employee to run a background check on Bob. Yes, this process is time-consuming and costly and, ultimately, unnecessary. You know Bob. He has been your neighbor for 15 years. He owns multiple firearms. You’ve hunted with him on multiple occasions. Why does he need a background check to purchase from you?
Anyways, if you and Bob fail to follow the law you’d both be subject to criminal penalties. First time offense would result in a gross misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. Second and subsequent violations for you and Bob would be considered a category C felony, which could land you one to five years in the state pen and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
The question we have to ask ourselves at this juncture is if Question 1 is going to stop the criminal element from buying guns on the black market, stealing them from law-abiding citizens or using straw purchasers to obtain them? You know, the primary ways criminals obtain firearms (based on research). The answer is heck no!
So, what’s the point of Question 1? Again, it’s to criminalize private transfers. To make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their 2A rights!
Okay, back to Attorney General Laxalt. So, why did he suspend Question 1. The answer is because the architects of Question 1 royally screwed up by mandating that the background checks for private transfers had to be conducted solely by the FBI’s NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
For states that only use NICS for processing background checks, this wouldn’t have been a problem. However, Nevada doesn’t just rely on federal databases. It also has a state-run system that processes background checks that is managed by the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Typically, when one buys a gun from a licensed dealer in Nevada, the DPS is contacted and it checks both federal databases as well as state records from its own database known as the “central repository” before approving the transfer. Many argue this is a more comprehensive and thorough way of running background checks.
In the language of Question 1, though, it explicitly states that with respect to private transfers only the FBI and NICS can be used, not the DPS. Question 1, therefore, totally undermines the state’s tried and true method for conducting background checks.
As Robert Uithoven, manager of the NRA Nevadans for Freedom campaign, noted, “This is what happens when you allow uniformed, out-of-state lobbying groups that prey on people’s emotions to write your laws.”
In a Dec. 14 letter, the FBI acknowledge the FUBAR in Question 1, saying, “the recent passage of the Nevada legislation regarding background checks for private sales cannot dictate how federal resources are applied,” further noting that “these background checks are the responsibility of the state of Nevada to be conducted as any other background check for firearms, through the Nevada DPS.”
Basically, the FBI said (a) states can’t tell us what to do and (b) we’re not going sidestep the Nevada DPS with respect to background checks.
When Attorney General Laxalt got word of the FBI’s letter he had to take action and suspend Question 1. How could he not? It was calling on the FBI to do something it expressly refused to do: override the DPS and run background checks for private transfers.
Laxalt wrote in his letter:
The Act grants the Nevada Department of Public Safety (the “Department”) no authority to perform the private-party background checks required by the Act. Instead, it specifically and unambiguously directs the licensed dealers who act as intermediaries for such checks to “contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System” administered by the FBI, and “not the Central Repository” administered by the Department.
However, the FBI, by letter dated December 14, 2016, has informed the Department that it will not allow intermediaries to run background checks directly through the FBI as required by the Act, but will only allow them to be “Conducted as any other background check for firearms” in Nevada” through the Nevada DPS as the POC [Point of Contact].” Thus, the Act expressly requires what the FBI, at least at preset, does not allow. Because the Act requires, under criminal penalty, what is currently impossible to perform in light of the FBI’s position, citizens may not be prosecuted for their inability to comply with the Act unless and until the FBI changes its public position and agrees to conduct the background checks consistent with the Act.
So, yes, what this amounts to is a lot of egg on Bloomberg’s sniveling face. Although his anti-gun minions narrowly succeeded in getting Question 1 on the books, it passed by the slimmest of margins (50.45% voted “yes” and 49.55% voted “no” on Question 1), it’s now in a legal quagmire with no immediate way out.
Nevertheless, Bloomberg’s lackeys remain optimistic that they’ll figure out a way to complete their mission of criminalizing private transfers and chilling the 2A rights of gun owners.
“We remain confident that Nevada officials and the FBI can and will work together to prioritize public safety,” said Jennifer Crowe, Nevada spokesperson for Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “The new law requires background checks and it’s up to Nevada officials to make sure the new law is implemented.”
Sigh. We’ll keep you posted as more news develops.