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Background check supporters should blame themselves

Backers of Question 1, which mandated background checks on private-party gun sales, have spent the past 15 months complaining that state officials have failed to implement the initiative. They’ve pointed fingers at everyone involved except the guilty party — themselves.

A recent letter from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office confirmed this yet again.

Last week, Gov. Sandoval’s office sent FBI officials a letter thanking them for agreeing to discuss implementing Question 1, which voters narrowly approved in November 2016. The initiative required private-party gun buyers to obtain an FBI background check. After that election, Gov. Sandoval’s office asked then-President Barack Obama’s FBI to conduct the background checks.

Mr. Obama’s FBI told Nevada’s Department of Public Safety to pound sand. Gov. Sandoval’s office has just asked again, and the answer remains the same.

“Following the change in administration, the office of the governor recently contacted the White House with the hope that the FBI would reconsider its position,” wrote Gov. Sandoval’s general counsel Kathryn Reynolds. “While I appreciate the time taken by both the White House and the Department of Justice to research and discuss this issue, it was disappointing to hear that the FBI is unable to accommodate Governor Sandoval’s request.”

This isn’t surprising. The FBI was never going to do work the federal government didn’t require it to do. It’s not Gov. Sandoval or Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s fault that initiative backers didn’t realize this before spending $20 million passing an unenforceable initiative.

This should also end a lawsuit that supporters filed last year against Gov. Sandoval and Mr. Laxalt for not implementing the initiative. Oral arguments took place in February, and a decision should be coming soon.

The only thing Question 1 supporters can do now is gloss over inconvenient realities and use this issue as a political club against Mr. Laxalt, who’s running for governor.

Gov. Sandoval “has been working behind the scenes to implement the background check system demanded by Nevada voters, and he’s been stymied by the Trump administration,” tweeted Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Giunchigliani. “It’s a shame that @AdamLaxalt doesn’t have the same sense of duty.”

As detailed above, that’s inaccurate. The FBI, under Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump, has had the same position. Mr. Laxalt, as the attorney general, has zero ability to implement a law. That’s the governor’s job. As a leading Democratic candidate for that position, one would hope Ms. Giunchigliani understands what’s in the job description.

But getting the details right has never been a high priority for Question 1 supporters. If it were, they would have written an enforceable initiative.

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