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DA Wolfson endorses initiative to mandate background checks on gun sales

The top prosecutor in Nevada’s most populated county endorsed a ballot initiative Tuesday requiring background checks on all gun sales in Nevada.

Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the measure would close a loophole in law and reduce gun violence.

“As a prosecutor, I know that it is all too easy for criminals who are prohibited from buying guns to get them online where background checks are not required,” Wolfson said in a statement.

Wolfson said the measure, to appear as Question 1 on the November ballot, is about making sure everyone follows the law.

Under existing law, only licensed gun dealers are required to conduct criminal background checks before selling a firearm. Question 1 would extend the requirement to online sales and weapons sold at gun shows.

“Question 1 closes the loophole in the law and would actually protect law-abiding gun owners from selling a gun to a felon or some other person who is prohibited by law from owning it,” Wolfson said.

Wolfson’s support for the gun legislation comes on the heels of a deadly weekend in the Las Vegas Valley, where five people were killed by gun violence.

Under Question 1, criminal background checks through a licensed dealer would be required for most sales or transfers of firearms. There would be limited exceptions for the transfer of guns between immediate family members; executors or administrators of estates; when necessary to prevent imminent death or harm; for hunting; or at shooting ranges or competitions.

A first violation would be a gross misdemeanor, while subsequent convictions would be a category C felony punishable by one to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Gun rights advocates argue that the Background Check Initiative is the latest attempt by billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to force his agenda on other states. They argue the initiative infringes upon the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens and won’t keep criminals from obtaining weapons illegally.

“Q-1 is a poorly written gun control initiative that will impose additional fees on law-abiding gun owners, make criminals out of law-abiding citizens and tax already scarce law-enforcement resources,” said Catherine Mortensen, spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.

Mortensen said current laws prohibit anyone from knowingly transferring a firearm to a prohibited person or to a person who is a resident of another state. She added that Nevada already allows private gun sellers to voluntarily conduct a background check on a potential firearm purchaser.

Gun control advocates, on the other hand, argue that states that have adopted restrictions on firearms beyond federal laws have seen dramatic reductions in gun violence.

In 2013, Nevada’s Democrat-controlled Legislature passed a similar bill requiring universal background checks. But that legislation was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who said it constituted an “erosion” of Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights

Supporters then formed a group called Nevadans for Background Checks, a coalition of law enforcement, business and community leaders who launched a statewide initiative petition. They collected nearly 250,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the general election ballot.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Find @SandraChereb on Twitter.

Background Check Initiative

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