Sandoval's office barraged with calls to veto Nevada gun control bill

CARSON CITY — Pity the poor people who work in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office.

They have been so bombarded by calls from people who want the governor to veto the gun control bill passed by the Legislature that they set up an automated phone system to allow “voting” on Senate Bill 221.

Although the governor for months has said he will veto the bill, 2,200 people called his office between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday, a day after the National Rifle Association asked gun control opponents to call and let him “hear your opposition.” Four out of five calls have been for the veto.

“He is going to veto the bill,” reasserted the governor’s press secretary, Mary-Sarah Kinner, something the Review-Journal and other Nevada media have reported for months.

Under the bill, people who purchase guns privately or at gun shows, would have to pay as much as $30 for a background check through a licensed gun dealer before they could claim their guns.

When the veto will be made, nobody yet knows.

Sandoval will become the first governor in the nation to veto a gun control bill since the Sandy Hook massacre in December that left 20 Connecticut children and six educators shot to death. SB221 would require all purchasers of firearms to go through background checks before they could receive their weapons.

Seven states have universal background checks for gun purchases, including Colorado and Connecticut. Governors in Utah and Montana earlier this year vetoed campus carry and concealed weapons bills.

Kinner said Thursday that the bill still has not been sent to the governor’s office by the Legislature. The governor has 10 days to veto or sign bills that he receives after the conclusion of a legislative session.

Since the Legislature meets only every other year, legislators would not have a chance to override his veto until the next session in February 2015.

Those who still want to make their views on the bill known to Sandoval can call 775-684-5670. After listening to a message about “voting,” they need only press 1 to support the bill, or two to oppose it.

The poll is hardly scientific. A Review-Journal reporter checking on how the system works voted yes twice, and voted no twice. No background is required from respondents, who don’t have to live in Nevada. And they can vote as many times as they want.

Callers also can speak with the office receptionist, if they choose, Kinner said.

The Legislature adjourned after a short special session Tuesday morning. The gun bill sponsored by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, passed the Senate 11-10 and then was approved at 2:45 p.m. Monday in the Assembly, 23-19.

All Assembly Republicans and four Democrats — Richard Carrillo, James Ohrenschall, both from Las Vegas, and Michael Sprinkle and Skip Daley, both from Sparks — voted no on Monday.

Other than bills to prevent abuse of animals, the gun bill was the most hotly contested measure of the legislative session. Hearing rooms several times were filled to capacity and committee chairs had to tell people waiting for seats to watch the hearings in other rooms over closed-circuit television.

Early in the session, Jones said he introduced the bill at the urging of friends and members of his church who were shocked by Sandy Hook massacre.

Suspect Adam Lanza, a troubled 20-year-old who also killed his mother and stole her guns, committed suicide. Several parents of Sandy Hook victims showed up at the Nevada Legislature to drum up support for the bill.

The National Rifle Association led the lobbying effort against the bill, just as it did against other gun control move in the nation’s capital and around the country. Even before the session opened, the NRA held meetings with legislators in Las Vegas in an effort to reduce support for greater gun control that followed Sandy Hook.

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization, an anti-gun violence group headed by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, campaigned in support of the bill. It brought former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of wounded former Rep. Gabby Gifford, D-Ariz., to Carson City on May 31 to drum up support for the bill.

Gifford was shot in the head at point-blank range at a political event in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011. Six others were killed.

Jones himself frequently mentioned Nevada’s own problem with shooting rampages such the September 2011 deaths of four patrons in the IHOP restaurant in Carson City. The shooter, Eduardo Sencion, also killed himself. Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong testified Sencion was a documented “paranoid schizophrenic, but who had purchased his weapons legally.

The Jones bill contains a provision that would require the courts to notify the state criminal history repository within five days of someone being adjudicated as mentally ill.

In mid-May, Jeremiah Bean, a 25-year-old man, was arrested in Fernley, 60 miles from Carson City, on charges of killing five people — two older couples and a newspaper carrier whose car he allegedly stole. The case has not gone to trial.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.