88°F
weather icon Clear

Nevadans for Background Checks shifts blame for $20M mistake

Updated May 3, 2017 - 10:48 am

It’s much easier to look for a scapegoat than admit you made a $20 million mistake.

That’s what Nevadans for Background Checks tried to do during a Friday news conference that called on Attorney General Adam Laxalt to enforce its background-check initiative.

Last fall’s Question 1 ballot initiative mandated background checks for private-party gun sales and transfers. The initiative writers could have required that Nevada perform the background checks for those transactions. Instead, they required licensed dealers to do them through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

“The reason it was written saying that NICS was going to do it, if we did it point of contact through the state, it would have added money to every one of those background checks,” said Elizabeth Becker, spokeswoman for the Nevada Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We did not want it to be a tax.”

Translated: Background checks wouldn’t have passed if voters knew there would be a cost.

The initiative passed by less than 1 percent. It may have been a necessary political decision, but that choice created a major policy problem. Despite spending almost $20 million on the campaign, initiative backers didn’t ensure that the FBI would be willing to do those checks. Because Nevada has done all background checks since 1998, the FBI announced — after the election — that it wouldn’t spend its money conducting background checks not required by federal law.

This left Nevada Department of Public Safety Director James Wright in a pickle. He asked his legal counsel, the attorney general’s office, for advice on how to proceed. In a Dec. 28 opinion, Laxalt’s office concluded that Q1 isn’t enforceable because “the FBI’s refusal to carry out the central function required by the Act effectuates an unconditional ban, at present, on all private firearm sales or transfers in Nevada. … The Nevada Supreme Court long ago adopted the doctrine that the law does not require impossible acts.”

At their news conference, background-check supporters didn’t quibble with the AG’s legal analysis. Nor did they express regret for the initiative wording or even offer any concrete steps Laxalt could take to change the FBI’s position. Instead, they’re hoping hollow talking points and political attacks will distract the public — and their own supporters — from their incompetence.

“Attorney general, come home and do your job,” said Sen. Yvanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, who highlighted that Laxalt was speaking that day at the 2017 NRA annual meeting.

She hypocritically failed to mention that she skipped that day’s Senate floor session — her job — to speak at the Las Vegas news conference.

The problem for Nevadans for Background Checks: Laxalt’s lawyers, in doing their jobs, have exposed that the initiative’s lawyers didn’t do theirs.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
THE LATEST