It’s likely that Elko County will soon become a “Second Amendment sanctuary county,” joining the many counties in other states that are making this declaration in defiance of state gun laws.
When Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza read about Nevada Senate Bill 143, which deals with background checks for gun purchasers, he felt it was a bad bill that is not enforceable. He talked to the county commissioners about taking a stand against the bill, and they were supportive.
At the Feb. 20 Elko County Commission meeting, Narvaiza and the commissioners briefly discussed the sanctuary county idea. Commissioners plan to vote on a resolution to become a Second Amendment sanctuary county at their March 20 meeting, which will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Nannini Administration Building downtown.
Narvaiza said that judging from the emails he has been receiving, and from the emails the county commissioners have been getting from the people of Elko County, “there should be a very good turnout, and a lot of support.”
He also said he has heard that other counties in Nevada will be expressing their disagreement with SB 143.
“White Pine’s on board, Eureka, Douglas, Lander, and a couple other counties down south are on board for this,” Narvaiza said. “The support has just been overwhelming.”
At the Feb. 25 Elko City Council meeting, Councilman Chip Stone read a letter supporting the county’s Second Amendment sanctuary proposal.
“One of the things I promised while running for Elko City Councilman was that I would back our Second Amendment rights,” Stone wrote in his letter. “I am very much a patriot, love my country, and our wonderful city. I feel that we, as citizens of the City of Elko and Elko County, must support Sheriff Narvaiza in making Elko County a sanctuary county for our Second Amendment rights.
“I would ask everyone to write letters and attend the Elko County commissioners meeting on March 20th, if possible.”
In the past several months many counties and a few cities in other states have passed resolutions saying they are Second Amendment sanctuaries that are not in support of and will not enforce particular gun laws that have been recently passed by their states. At least a dozen counties in the state of Washington, more than half of New Mexico’s 33 counties, and at least two counties in Colorado have passed resolutions.
Nevada’s Senate Bill 143, which was signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Feb. 15, is scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 2, 2020. Sheriff Narvaiza said it is a bill “that does nothing for anybody. Nothing, nothing whatsoever.” He said all it would do is add an additional burden to honest gun owners.
Advocates of the bill said a major goal of the legislation is to close the “gun show loophole” which allows people to purchase a firearm at a gun show without a background check. Narvaiza said his concern is that the law applies to every private gun sale.
“I do believe if you purchase a gun from a dealer, you should have a background check,” Narvaiza said. “But if I want to sell a firearm to a friend of mine I’ve known for 20 years, I should be able to do that.”
He said that in many situations the law would be difficult to enforce.
“If you and I come to an agreement on a firearm, and I sell you a gun, you give me $500, you go your way and I go my way, and nobody knows a transaction has been done, there’s really no way of checking it,” Narvaiza said.
He explained that under the new law, if two private individuals are working on a gun transaction, they will have to go to a gun dealer and turn in the gun, possibly for several days, and the gun purchaser will pay a fee for the background check. Also, if the gun dealer says the firearm is worth more than the agreed-on sale price, the purchaser will have to pay tax on the amount the dealer says the gun is worth.
Narvaiza commented that judging from the number of applications for concealed carry weapons (CCW) permits which have come in recently, he expects this year’s CCW requests to be up from last year, now that SB 143 has passed. Last year, the sheriff’s department received 942 requests for CCW permits. Under current state law, CCW permit holders are exempt from background check requirements.
Attempts to enact gun background check regulations like SB 143 have been tried before in Nevada, Narvaiza said. Back in 2013, a background check bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. In 2016, Question 1 was narrowly approved by Nevada voters. That measure was very similar to SB 143, except that Question 1 required the FBI to carry out the background checks. The FBI said it did not want to take on this additional work, and Attorney General Adam Laxalt and a district court judge ended up saying that the measure was not enforceable. SB 143 says that state of Nevada will conduct the background checks.
Narvaiza said if the county commissioners approve a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution on March 20, that will mean that “basically, we won’t enforce Senate Bill 143.”
“We’re going to follow the Constitution, we’re going to follow all the state laws, and gun laws; we’re just not supporting this bill,” he said.
The sheriff said the battle over SB 143 is part of his wider concern about protecting the Second Amendment.
“Our Second Amendment rights right now are being infringed on,” he said. “California’s already seizing guns, other states are seizing guns, we’re just here to make sure that Elko keeps ours.”
“The people of Elko County need to really step up and fight for their gun rights,” Narvaiza told county commissioners at their Feb. 20 meeting.
Commissioners Rex Steninger and Jon Karr both said this week that they have been getting a lot of emails about the sanctuary county proposal, and all of them have been in favor of the idea.
“The sentiment of the emails I’ve received is that the Second Amendment is very important to the Elko County residents,” Steninger said. “And we’ll do everything we can to make sure that we support it.”
He said he is glad to see the sheriff taking such a strong stand.
“I’m proud of him,” Steninger said.
Karr said his main concern with SB 143 it that it is not very well thought out.
“My problem with this is it still wouldn’t have solved the Las Vegas shooting, and that really is what Sisolak ran on,” Karr said.
He said the new law is “truly not that enforceable,” and “you really haven’t solved anything, other than making a nuisance for the legal gun owners.”
Karr said that if people really want to deal with gun issues, he would like to see them take a more scientific approach, and take a close look at what they are trying to solve and how those goals might actually be accomplished.
Some of the counties in other states that discussed Second Amendment sanctuary status have seen huge amounts of public support. The Alamogordo Daily News reported that in Otero County, New Mexico, the county commission held a meeting on Feb. 25 to declare that they are a Second Amendment sanctuary county. More than 500 people showed up, and the commissioners had to move the meeting to the performing arts center across the street. During the public comment period, 21 people got up to speak. All but one were in favor of passing the sanctuary county resolution.
The following day, New Mexico’s Democrat governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, wrote several comments on Twitter criticizing the sanctuary county movement.
“I’m not daunted by obstacles, whether it’s NRA propaganda, rogue sheriffs throwing a childish pity party or bad-faith critics,” Grisham wrote. “Improving background checks and keeping firearms away from domestic abusers will not solve every problem, no. But they have been proven effective, and we will work at #nmleg until firearm safety – which responsible gun-owners in New Mexico recognize as imperative – is achieved.”