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Background check gun bill set to be fast tracked into Nevada law

Updated February 8, 2019 - 7:13 pm

CARSON CITY — What is often a sluggish second week in the Legislature will ramp up swiftly Monday with the expected introduction of a gun sales background check bill that could be heard in committee, approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor before the end of the week.

Under that timetable, Nevada could have a workable system of stricter background checks on its books in time for Thursday’s first anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 and injured several others.

Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, discussing the measure Thursday, noted the imminent anniversary and a “desire from our folks to respect that and honor the folks affected by that.”

The bill, still being drafted Friday, is expected to fulfill the intent of a 2016 voter-approved initiative to require the FBI to perform background checks on private-party gun transfers. The FBI, as a federal agency, balked at carrying out a state-sponsored directive. The new measure is expected to set up a state procedure for the enhanced system of checks.

The legislative action is expected to draw supporters, activists and lobbyists from both sides of the gun control debate to occupy the Capitol for at least the first half of the week. Supportive Democratic majorities in both houses, with a governor who made gun control a central theme of his candidacy, virtually ensure the measure will pass.

A joint meeting of the Senate and Assembly judiciary committees is scheduled for 8 a.m. Tuesday to hear the bill. Legislation would have to hit the floors of both the Assembly and Senate on Monday to hew to that hearing schedule. Lawmakers in both chambers would have to vote to suspend normal rules to expedite action on the bill.

Several issues might slow the measure. Suspension of rules requires two-thirds approval of each house. Democrats hold that majority in the Assembly but not in the Senate, where Republicans could decline to fast-track the bill. But Republicans might accede, viewing the push for swift action as a potential liability for Democrats down the road.

And questions of funding could shape the debate. The cost of enhanced background checks was put at $650,000 in a financial impact note that accompanied the 2016 initiative, an amount potentially offset by a $25 fee on each background check. Whether costs are covered by existing state funds or by new fees, who pays the fee and whether the fee is instead labeled a tax are all unresolved questions.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @Dentzernews on Twitter.

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