Supporters bring in another big gun to sell Nevada gun background check bill

CARSON CITY — Supporters of a bill that would require background checks on nearly all Nevada gun purchases on Friday intensified their efforts to get the measure through the Legislature despite a veto threat from Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, brought in Mark Kelly, a former space shuttle commander and husband of wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona, to speak for Senate Bill 221.

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

Kelly said Arizona and Nevada have a lot in common, including a tradition of hunting and gun ownership.

“Recently, unfortunately, we’ve come to share something else: tragic experiences with gun violence,” he said, referring to the Carson City IHOP shooting. Four people were killed at the restaurant in September 2011 by a man with mental health issues who then took his own life.

Kelly said he and his wife are gun owners and supporters of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“But rights demand responsibility,” he said. “And this right does not extend to criminals. And it doesn’t extend to the dangerously mentally ill. When dangerous people get guns, we are all vulnerable.”

Also appearing in support of the controversial measure was Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who said she is working with Jones to offer amendments to the bill to satisfy concerns raised about the bill at a hearing this week. Masto called Jones’ bill a common-sense way to address the issue of criminals and the mentally ill obtaining weapons.

“The bill closes off a significant loophole that felons and other dangerous individuals use to avoid background checks and obtain guns, particularly at gun shows,” she said. “However it also strengthens the laws to prevent individuals with significant mental health problems from accessing firearms.”

Jones said he expects to bring an amendment to the bill before the Assembly Judiciary Committee for its consideration as early as today. Time is running out for the measure with the Legislature required to adjourn Monday.

Jones acknowledged that Sandoval remains opposed to the background check provisions in the bill and that a veto is possible. Jones said he continues to talk with Sandoval’s staff about the bill, which has generated opposition from gun owners who say the background check provisions are an unnecessary intrusion on Second Amendment rights.

His bill would require private sellers of guns to complete a purchase at a licensed firearms dealership so a background check could be performed. The cost would be set at $30.

Nevada’s law enforcement community is divided on the proposal. Representatives of the Washoe and Clark County sheriffs spoke in favor of the bill.

But Bob Roshak, representing the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association, said other members of his organization believe that the background check requirement is unenforceable.