Nevada petition filed to require background checks for gun purchases

CARSON CITY — An initiative petition seeking to mandate background checks for nearly all gun purchases in Nevada was filed with the secretary of state’s office Friday.

To put a petition to change a state law on the ballot in 2016, supporters must collect 101,667 signatures by Nov. 11. Then legislators in 2015 would approve or reject the petition. If they reject it, then it would become a ballot question for voters to decide in 2016.

The initiative, filed by Nevadans for Background Checks, would expand background checks to all gun purchases with some exceptions, including law enforcement and antique firearms sales or transfers.

“Background checks on all gun sales are common sense when it comes to keeping Nevada women safer from domestic violence,” said Sue Meuschke, executive director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence.

“In states that require a background check for all unlicensed handgun sales, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by their intimate partners. Plain and simple, background checks will make it more difficult for domestic abusers to buy guns.”

Supporters of the Background Check Initiative said the measure would create a fair, level playing field where all gun sellers must follow the same set of rules.

Currently in Nevada, guns sold by individuals through want ads, or at gun shows, are not subjected to background check requirements.

A first conviction of the proposed law would be a gross misdemeanor. A second conviction would be a felony.

The Committee for Background Checks, the political action committee pushing the petition, is affiliated with a national group called Everytown for Gun Safety, which is being backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Boston Mayor Tom Menino.

A background check measure passed the Nevada Legislature in 2013 but was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

There was vehement opposition to that background check legislation by gun rights groups. The bill was introduced by state Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, who is now in a re-election battle for his District 9 seat.

John Wagner, a member of the Independent American Party who opposed Jones’ bill in the 2013 session, said the group will work to educate voters so they won’t sign the petition.

“Nevadans are not ready for this,” Wagner said.

But supporters of the petition say 86 percent of Nevadans favor background checks, citing a March 2013 poll.

“An overwhelming majority of Nevadans support expanding criminal background checks to all gun sales, and today is the beginning of our fight to make sure their voices are heard on election day,” said Teresa Crawford, cited as a White House Champion for Change in Gun Violence Prevention.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but by building a broad coalition of Nevadans to expand background checks to all gun sales we will be helping keep our children and communities safer.”

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.