As a retired officer from both the North Las Vegas Police Department and the United States Air Force, I have a unique perspective on Nevada’s current debate for the Question One gun control ballot initiative. Supporters of the measure, which is largely bankrolled by former New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg, claim it is a reasonable, commonsense law that would keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Those claims are false. The Question One gun control ballot initiative is nothing but a feel good law for politicians, who after a tragic shooting, are desperate not to let a good crisis go to waste.
The reason Question One would do nothing to make Nevadans safer is because we know that criminals do not obey the laws. A new study done by the University of Pittsburgh backs up what Nevada sheriffs are saying about new gun control law. The study finds that nearly 8 in 10 gun crimes are committed with illegally-possessed guns. The Washington Post, which is usually in favor of more gun control laws, was forced to admit the findings “… reinforce a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.”
Question One would criminalize the commonplace activities of many law-abiding Nevadans. For example, if your neighbor or co-worker wanted to go shooting on federal BLM land and borrow a firearm, the two of you would first have to go to a federally licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee, and undergo a federal background check. When finished, you would both have to go back to that dealer and go through the whole process again. This would be on top of the background check you already went through when you first bought the firearm. If you were in the military and got sent overseas, you would not be able to have a friend store your personal firearms for you, unless, the two of you went through the same process I already described. Question one would cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.
Enforcing this measure would tax already scarce law enforcement resources in Nevada. For example, the North Las Vegas police department was particularly hard hit by the Great Recession and barely avoided a state takeover. The department, like many around the state, is still strapped for cash. Furthermore, to effectively enforce private firearms transfer laws, the state would need to create a massive gun registry. In a white paper dated January 4, 2013, the deputy director of the National Institute for Justice — the Department of Justice’s research and evaluation agency — makes clear that the effectiveness of “universal” background checks “depends on … requiring gun registration.” Clark County got rid of its gun registry scheme last year. I am sure Nevadans do not want a return to that failed approach.
That gets to my final point. The so-called common sense gun laws are never enough for the anti-gun crowd. If they get Question One passed, they will be back for more gun control laws in the future. A better way to keeping Nevadans safe is to enforce the state and federal gun laws already on the books. We need mandatory sentencing laws for criminals who use a firearms in the commission of a crime. Time and again we see that states and cities with the most gun control laws persistently have the highest crimes rates. We should not look to cities such as Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, DC for ideas on how to make Nevadans safer.
The Question One gun control ballot initiative will not make Nevadans any safer. Instead, it will tax scarce law enforcement resources in the state and cost law-abiding citizens time, money and freedom.