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VICTOR JOECKS: Gun sales surge, overwhelming NV’s background check system amid calls to ‘defund the police’

The number of people buying firearms has overwhelmed Nevada’s background check system. Thank everyone who’s been shouting about “defunding the police.”

In Nevada and around the nation, the demand for guns has skyrocketed. In June, the federal background check system conducted more than 3.9 million background checks. That’s the highest number ever in a month. There were 3.7 million checks in March, the second highest monthly total.

“It was COVID initially,” said Jim Rommuno, owner of the Discount Gun Store in Las Vegas. “Then the riots started. The riots made COVID look slow. Then there’s the talk about getting rid of the police.”

Turns out that there are many people who don’t view a policeless future as a utopia to enjoy but as a nightmare to guard against. They’re obviously right. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio wants to cut $1 billion from the New York Police Department budget, despite the city enduring a 79 percent increase in murders in May. Los Angeles wants to cut its police department budget, too, even though homicides spiked after the tragic death of George Floyd.

Even when the police are present, political pressures have frequently kept them from protecting private property. Protests over Floyd’s death devolved into riots in many cities including Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Houston and New York. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that insurance experts think damage in that city alone could top $500 million.

Purchasing a gun is a logical response. Rommuno said that “well above 90 percent” of his customers are new firearm purchasers. He said those customers are saying “I never thought I’d own a gun — ever. But here I am because I need to protect my family.”

People aren’t just stocking up on firearms. “Ammo today is like toilet paper 60 days ago,” Rommuno said. But that’s not the only hurdle facing Nevadans looking to defend themselves.

Nevada requires firearms purchasers to undergo a state background check run by the Department of Public Safety. Normally, a gun shop calls DPS and runs the check in a matter of minutes. Kalif Gordon, the owner of Second Amendment Guns in Las Vegas, said his customers currently face a three- to six-week delay.

“We can’t get through to DPS,” Gordon said. “We start at eight in the morning and we go all the way through 3:30. What they’re saying is the solution is to keep faxing.”

If telephone calls and faxes sound outdated, you’re right. A spokesperson from the DPS Point of Contact Firearms Program said that the department does “not have the technology to ensure secure transfer of information” electronically. While it’s hard to change systems when you’re overwhelmed, updating this system should be a priority for DPS and Gov. Steve Sisolak.

“People are in fear,” Gordon said. “They want to protect themselves. They aren’t able to do so,because they can’t get their guns.”

That’s unacceptable. Gov. Steve Sisolak and DPS need to increase Nevada’s capacity to process background checks.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 3 p.m. with Kevin Wall on AM 670 KMZQ Right Talk. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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