Have you ever tried to tell your boss what to do?
The chain of command in the workplace also applies to the levels of government, as Nevada voters recently learned when the gun background check initiative did not take effect Jan. 1 as planned.
In voting for the bill, Nevadans were essentially telling the federal government what to do: to handle the extra background checks for us. But the FBI informed the Nevada Department of Public Safety in mid-December that it would not, and requested the state handle it.
The FBI letter stated that “the recent passage of the Nevada legislation regarding background checks for private sales cannot dictate how federal resources are applied,” and that the state’s more comprehensive database should be used.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt says that’s not possible, based on the way the law is written. Democratic lawmakers already are planning a fix in the Legislature, which meets a month from now.
But the law faces another challenge as well. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a private gun seller in Clark County filed a lawsuit last week claiming the law “improperly creates a ‘taxable event’ for gun sellers in violation of the state Constitution. It also says that would violate the sellers’ right to due process in the event they did not have the checks conducted.”
Pretty complicated stuff, considering that eight states already have successfully enacted comprehensive gun background checks.
So, why did the ballot initiative direct the feds instead of the state to do the checks? Review-Journal columnist Steve Sebelius believes it was all about the money.
“The framers of the background check initiative knew that if they required gun dealers to use the state database, they would also have to include a fee to cover the costs to the state. … By mandating that gun dealers contact the FBI, however, the initiative didn’t have to impose a new fee and was thus potentially more palatable to voters,” he stated in a recent column.
The gun initiative was already pretty unpalatable to Nevada voters, at least those outside of Clark County who regularly buy and sell guns for purposes other than committing crimes. The measure passed by less than a percentage point, and failed in all counties outside of Clark.
We don’t know whether lawmakers can “fix” the citizen-imposed gun law, or whether Gov. Brian Sandoval would veto any legislation as he did four years ago. What we do know is that Laxalt will continue to take whatever steps he can to prevent the law from being implemented. Both state leaders see universal gun background checks as an erosion of Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights.
Proponents of the law are correct when they say that guns are dangerous. Even in the absence of malice they tend to kill innocent people when handled carelessly. But the only thing worse than owning a gun is having the government declare you are not allowed to have one.
The gun background check law does not go that far, of course, it is merely a step in that direction. Opponents who fear the government is trying to take their guns away were surprised to learn that the FBI doesn’t want to track them in Nevada.
Nevadans For Background Checks apparently was surprised as well. The group sent Laxalt a letter demanding he clear the way for their flawed initiative.
In response, AG spokeswoman Monica Moazez stated “It is clear that the proponents of the Background Check Act failed to properly draft the central feature of the Act, namely who is responsible for performing background checks.”
We agree. Either FBI officials need to let Nevada voters boss them around, or the group needs to start over from square one.