Gun control push debuts in Nevada

For years, the Silver State led the nation on the number of women killed by men with handguns — with mostly husbands, boyfriends or stalkers pulling the trigger — but dropped to No. 16 last year in a report by the Violence Policy Center.

Yet, federal and state laws still allow unmarried domestic abusers and stalkers to buy and possess guns, making it easier to kill, Sue Meuscheke, executive director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, said Monday.

Meuscheke is among more than a dozen advocates heading to Washington this week to lobby lawmakers to close what they call a loophole in the law in an era when boyfriends and stalkers kill women as often as husbands and ex-spouses.

“In many cases of domestic violence, it’s a dating relationship,” Meuscheke said in an interview. “The other missing piece is adding folks that have been convicted of stalking. Almost half of the mass shootings in this country are domestic related.”

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding its first hearing Wednesday on guns and violence against women. Advocates plan to recommend passage of Senate Bill 1290, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., to close the loopholes. It would protect victims of stalking and dating abuse by ensuring such men can’t legally buy or possess guns.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a self-described gun violence prevention group founded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Monday night launched ad campaigns in Nevada and other states to promote closing loopholes that allow violent men to buy and own guns despite threats against their intimate partners.

The 30-second TV spots are disturbing, opening with an ex-husband pounding on the door of a house while his ex-wife inside is on the phone with 911. The man breaks in, grabs the couple’s toddler son and then pulls a gun on his ex-wife as she screams and tries to get him to give the boy back.

The ads end with the sounds of a gun shot and a baby crying.

In Nevada there were 20 female homicide victims in 2011, or a rate of 1.48 per 100,000 women, according to the September 2013 report by the Violence Policy Center, which used the latest statistics available nationwide. That put the state at No. 16 in the nation, a drastic improvement over previous years.

Still, Nevada laws are behind the times, the Everytown group said in a recent report. Nevada law doesn’t prohibit individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from buying or possessing firearms, for example. Nor are domestic violence offenders required to surrender their guns to authorities.

Nevada law is passive on two other points: It authorizes but doesn’t require courts to prohibit those with a domestic violence restraining order from possessing firearms for the duration of the order; and it allows courts to make subjects of such orders transfer firearms to court-approved custodians or law enforcement officials.

In 2013, the Nevada legislature passed a gun control law that would have expanded background checks to purchases made over the Internet and at private gun shows, but GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the bill.

Background checks are now required for sales at gun stores to prevent sales to felons or those who have been judged mentally ill. In June of this year, an initiative petition was launched, seeking to mandate background checks for nearly all gun purchases in Nevada. If enough signatures are collected, it could be on the 2016 ballot.

Meuschke, of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, said advocates want “common sense” laws to prevent violent and mentally ill people from having guns, but don’t want to step on Second Amendment rights to own firearms.

“We don’t want to make it harder for folks to exercise their Second Amendment rights,” she said. “But we’re talking about a class of individuals who have violated those rights.”

An Everytown ad aimed at U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nUTlECYQIo&feature=youtube

The Everytown report on domestic violence and guns can be found at http://everytown.org/article/guns-and-violence-against-women/

The Violence Policy Center report on 2013 gun homicides may be found at http://www.vpc.org/studies/wmmw2013.pdf.

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Find her on Twitter: @lmyerslvrj.