This week on Face the State, Arianna Bennett interviewed Jennifer Crowe with Nevadans for Background Checks and former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley in favor and John Jorgensen with Nevadans for State Gun Rights in opposition of ballot Question 1. Read the full transcript below or watch the interview in the video player.
Arianna Bennett: Welcome to Face the State, I'm Arianna Bennett. Thank you for joining us. Well when Nevadans head to the polls in November, along with the state, local, and national races they'll also be deciding on four statewide ballot questions. Now these initiatives seek to make changes to Nevada's laws, it's tax structure, and even it's constitution. So to look further into what each question is asking I'll be featuring them all on Face the State starting with Question 1 the background check initiative.
Question 1 asks shall Chapter 202 of the Nevada Revised Statutes be amended to prohibit, except in certain circumstances, a person from selling or transferring a firearm to another person unless a federally licensed dealer first conducts a federal background check on the potential buyer or transferee. To break it down, here's what would change:
If it passes in commercial sales only licensed dealers would be able to sell firearms and they would only be allowed to sell to customers who pass a federal background check.
In private sales, both parties would have to go to a licensed dealership to have the background check done and complete the sale. The dealer would use the national instant criminal background check system administered by the FBI and would be able to charge a fee for the service.
But there are some exceptions including sales involving law enforcement or other positions that require the possession of firearms like security guards or military service. Now it also wouldn't apply to sales of antique firearms or sales or transfers between immediate family members.
The initiative also addresses temporary transfers, which would still be legal as long as the temporary recipient is not legally prohibited from owning a firearm. Temporary transfers considered legal would include use to prevent imminent and bodily harm and use at shooting ranges, lawfully organized competitions, use while hunting, and other scenarios where the licensed owner is present.
Question 1 also specifies penalties if these laws aren't followed. For the first conviction the seller would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and could receive up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $1000 or both. Any subsequent convictions would be considered felonies with sentences up to five years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
If this measure passes by voters in November it will become law without any further approval needed.
And after the break we will hear from both sides on this issue, those campaigning for and against this measure. Stay with us.
Arianna Bennett: Welcome back to Face the State, we will begin our discussion of State Ballot Question 1 with the side working to pass it. Jennifer Crowe with Nevadans for Background Checks and former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley are here now with that side of it. Thank you both so much for coming on the show.
Mike Haley: Thank you.
Jennifer Crowe: Thank you for having us.
Okay so Nevadans for Background Checks is the group pushing to have this passed. Tell me why in general you thought this was a necessary thing to have.
Well as your package nicely explained currently under Nevada law background checks are only required at licensed dealers. So if you go to buy a gun at a gun store whether it's a small business or a big box store you go through a background check. But currently you know thousands of guns are for sale through these online market places and no background checks are required. I mean that just doesn't make sense and it doesn't make our state safer.
What about the folks who say background checks in general are not going to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. If they want to get a gun they're going to get it illegally anyway?
Well you know no one law can prevent every crime and we're not claiming that Question 1 is the answer to the gun violence problem in our communities but we do know that in states that have closed the background check loophole they've seen a reduction in gun violence. There's 46% fewer women killed by their intimate partners with guns. 48% fewer law enforcement shot and killed in the line of duty. You know no one law can prevent every crime but we do know that this will make a difference and that it will save lives. That's why we have the support of public safety officers and all across the state.
Now Nevada is traditionally a state that doesn't like more government oversight, Nevadans, you know, like to keep their freedoms open and as little government as possible. Why is that something that you feel comfortable kind of tinkering with in this case?
Well nothing about Question 1 infringes on the rights of law abiding gun owners. And I think maybe Mike can speak a little bit more to the issue of that but in terms of public safety you know we know that this will help reduce gun violence, we know that it will make a difference and to say that we should do nothing really doesn't make any sense particularly when we have this inequity in the law. We don't apply our laws in only certain places. Our laws apply all the time to everybody and the background check law should be no different.
How do you know that it will make the state safer? Because the opposition is arguing that it's not going to make a difference?
Well the research shows that in states that close the loophole there's reductions like I outlined. I mean you-you can't deny that it's going to be harder for people to get guns if background checks are required on more gun sales. In 2013 Colorado closed the background check loophole. In the first 18 months after that more than 14-thousand new background checks were conducted on private sales as a result of that law and it blocked almost 200 gun sales to prohibited purchasers. These are felons, domestic abusers, fugitives, these are dangerous people that we have all agreed in our current laws should not have guns and we need to close the loophole so that we can enforce those current laws.
Now Mike you know you're a former law enforcement officer, what have you seen in your experience that would indicate that background checks are going to have an effect?
Well we have background checks in the state of Nevada now, federal background checks that are required when we all go purchase a weapon at a-a firearms dealer and we know that criminals go to those firearms dealer to buy weapons. Over 5,000 of them have done that in the recent calculations. And if we expand background checks to include all sales of weapons then we will capture more people felons, fugitives, people with mental health disorders, domestic batterers, those folks who are the only folks we're trying to prevent having a weapon from having them those folks will be caught in this process and prohibited and prevented from accessing those weapons.
Is there concern though that it would just grow the black market? That they would then go underground for the guns?
(Overlapping) No let me speak to the black market. We-the true black market is-are street corners where you have to know where those corners are, you would have to go research to find out where you could maybe buy an illeg-illegal weapon. We have undercover officers doing that. And they're not always very successful because it's very tough to find illegal weapons on the street. Where we have the wholesale, sale of weapons now is online sales. That's not black market it's legal. But there's two people make a deal to buy a weapon, they meet in some parking lot and the seller doesn't know that the buyer isn't prohibited at all and they should know and they would know if they went to a gun dealer and had their backgrounds checked, they'd be safe. They would knew-they would know they're not selling it to a prohibited person that may use that gun in a way that would cause harm.
Now given that standpoint, I'm sorry Jennifer, given that standpoint, why is it do you think that the majority of our local law enforcement leaders here in northern Nevada are in opposition to this?
You know before I joined the in support of Question 1 I researched it. I-I spoke with the public. The public supports this. I'm a public servant. I've researched it, I've read about it, I believe that it's the best law. I don't think as Jennifer said we can have two ways that we can purchase a weapon here, it's confusing. And everyone that I speak with tells me that they're astounded that we have a two ways to buy a weapon here. So I-I have respect for my fellow law enforcement professionals but I can tell you in one op ed that was written that particular professional had not read Question 1 at all. And so before I ever decided to support this I read it, I know it's a good law, I know it's a good initiative, I know it will be a good law. I know it will save lives and I know it's the right thing to do.
Now one sticking point might be that it's going to allow these you know people who are going to be running background checks the federally licensed dealers to charge what you're calling your reasonable fee. There's no definition to what that range is in the measure. So how do people know that they're not going to be charging an arm and a leg for this?
Well in other states that have passed this law the marketplace typically will determine the fee, what people are willing to pay and nobody's going to charge more than people are willing to pay because it's actually a tool to bring more people into your store. We've seen that in other states. On average they cost between $10-$20. It's a very minimal minimal fee. Background checks are quick and easy. Most are completed within just a couple of minutes and 97% of Nevadans live within 10 miles of a licensed gun dealership so it's not really an inconvenience. And to highlight something that the Sheriff said about the online marketplace, we know that in Nevada in any given year over 30-thou- 35-thousand unique ads are placed on these online websites. We also know that one in eleven people shopping online for guns is a prohibited purchaser. So just looking at that research and statistics we know that thousands of guns are being sold unwittingly by these sellers every year to people who shouldn't have them under our current laws.
Now I want to touch on the word inconvenience which you just said, I think inconvenience is subjective obviously and I think when it comes to sales it's one argument but the other part of this measure is when it comes to temporary transfers, so basically loaning your gun, and it would make it substantially more difficult for a person to say loan their gun to their best friend of 20 years to go on a hunting trip. That would no longer be legal and I think some people might see that as an undue burden on their rights as Americans.
Well you know the law or the proposed ballot measure does have reasonable exceptions for family hunting and self defense. The family to family transfer definition in this law is one of the broadest in the nation to really sort of respect that libertarian, gun-owning, second amendment tradition that's very strong here in our state. Hunting as well as long as you know you're out hunting together sharing guns, no background check is required. Now if you're going to loan your gun to somebody and you're not going to go with them then you want to make sure that they under the law are allowed to have it. And you don't always know that. A background check protects everybody so that we know that we're following the law and enforcing our laws that we currently have.
Okay we have about a minute left, so what's your what's your closing message? What's the one thing you want voters to take away from this?
Well from my perspective I would like people just to take a minute to-to read the initiative, to read it. And to compare that about what's being said relative to the opposition. It-it when I read both of those or I look-I read it and I look at the message being sent by the opposition I-I think I'm talking about two different issues. I think it's reasonable, it's responsible, that we prohibit people who should not have access to weapons, not to have access to weapons. It's it'll make a safer region, it's the best thing we can do and children and women will not be killed by folks who are prohibited from having weapons.
You know just to sort of sum it up I think you know it's this is about saving lives. I think a lot of the discussion is getting distracted in some of these other conversations about convenience or you know I can't go hunting with my friend and it's going to be some sort of hassle or whatever but when it comes down to it you know when you meet with the victims or the family victims of gun violence a background check is a simple thing that we can all do to save somebody's life.
Okay, well thank you so much both for your time -
(Haley overlapping) Thank you.
I really do appreciate it.
Okay, well coming up on Face the State we will hear from the other side of the issue. Stay with us.
Arianna Bennett: Welcome back to Face the State, we will turn our discussion now to the opposing side of the background check initiative John Jorgensen with Nevadans for State Gun Rights is here now to talk about that. John thank you for joining us.
John Jorgensen: Thank you, thank you for letting me be here.
Okay so just to start us off can you tell me generally why your group is in opposition to this measure?
This measure is-is one that-that creates a great deal of inconvenience for-for us as we were discuss-as the other group was discussing. You know they were talking about the cheap background checks. I recently moved here from California, background checks were over $100. So don't tell me they're cheap, they're not cheap. Right now we don't feel that they're needed. This is-this is a measure that will not make us safe. In fact 16 of our 17 county sheriffs have come out in strong opposition because they oppose this bill because it will cause them to divert precious resources to try to enforce a law against good people in this state. And that's not where we want our law enforcement resources applied. In fact the chief law enforcement officer, our Attorney General, has come out in opposition to this proposition and so has the Governor. They all understand that this does not make us safer, it creates difficulties for the police department and a great deal of inconvenience for-for the people of the state of Nevada.
Now I think part of the argument from the proponents is that it's partly about consistency. So we already have background checks in commercial sales done by federally licensed gun sellers. Why then shouldn't we extend it to all sales?
Why should we? The question is why should we extend it to all sales? So would you -
The law is originally set up for the FFL's for the dealers who are dealing in firearms and that's-that's what it's for. It's not for private individuals and in fact in Nevada you can get a free background check on a private transfer. It-you the state provides for that. If you-if you find somebody that you want to sell a gun to and that person is somebody you don't know and you have a great deal of question about whether he should have one or not you can get a free background check done on him before-before you sell it. And in fact it's already against the law for a private seller to sell a gun to somebody that's prohibited.
But how would they know if someone is prohibited?
By doing the background check, voluntary background check.
Okay so the argument is that people should be doing this voluntarily?
But if I'm selling my gun to my next door neighbor, a friend of mine that I go shooting with every day I know he's a good guy. I know that there's no problem with that. If it's with my hunting buddies, and this-this transfer is-is a very serious problem. I've read the language of the proposition and the way I read it it says for me to loan you a gun we have to go to a range, we have to go to a range that's sanctioned by the government and then I can loan you my firearm. But I cannot loan you my firearm under any other circumstances otherwise we have to go to an FFL, do the transfer, do the loan, and then when the gun comes back to me there has to be another background check put on me, my gun that I have transferred to somebody else, to come back to me. This is very unreasonable.
Right, so I think you know that's the argument for the transfer situation do you have necessarily an opposition for closing the gun show loophole?
What is the gun show loophole?
Well it's that someone selling at a gun show isn't required to perform a background check.
(overlapping) The laws inside a gun show are exactly the same as the laws outside a gun show. Gun-there's no special laws for gun shows. Private sales and gun shows, private sales and outside of gun shows, there's no special law for guns-for gun shows.
It's splitting hairs a little bit though because what really is the difference between a retailer selling a gun at a gun show versus a retailer selling a gun in a store?
I'm selling my piece that's my private property so this is not only just second amendment rights its property rights and I'm providing that piece of property to somebody else. So it-it's different than-than a retailer. These people are not people that are in business to sell firearms. They're selling off pieces of their collection. And or trading them because somebody's got a rifle they like better and vice-versa. So they trade. That's the kind of activity we're talking about and I don't think making put sticking an FFL in the middle of that is-is gonna do anything to help us right now. I mean the background checks as they are right now don't work that well. If-if we really wanted to fix a background check system then we would do those things necessary to get people who are truly should be prohibited on the list. Right now there's large numbers of people that are not on the list. Look-look at the-the-the folks that committed the heinous crimes in San Bernardino and Florid and right after Oregon passed this universal background check somebody passed a background check and went and killed 9 people. So the background check system is flawed, it needs to be fixed and if that was what this proposition was about we'd be supporting it because we do not want prohibited people from being able to get firearms. That is clearly an issue of safety for Nevadans.
Okay I went to do a little research on this online and I found a website called ArmsList.com, it's basically a craigslist for selling firearms and accessories. I searched Nevada and I found more than 100 entries of private citizens looking to sell firearms and it says pretty specifically on the majority of these entries 'no questions asked, just requires a Nevada ID and a willingness to sign a private bill of sale'. So while the system may exist to do background checks as a private citizen it seems as if many people aren't doing it.
If you look at there was a recent study, University of Chicago, where they-they interviewed criminals who getting firearms. Criminals get their firearms on the street as you'd mentioned earlier in the show. They get them from the dealers who deal in stolen goods that deal in-in drugs. They get their firearms from them. They don't buy their firearms on the internet. They don't buy their firearms at gun-guns shows. And frankly I don't know of the those that you are mentioning but in all of those cases those if they are selling that firearm to somebody who's on a-who's prohibited they're breaking the law and they're committing a felony. So the law is already there that prevents people from doing it. Why don't we just enforce the laws we've got.
Okay. One of the arguments from the proponents of this is that if it prevents even one shooting it's worth the inconvenience to law abiding gun owners. What is your response to that?
(pause) Gun owners... (pause) Every year there are between 600 and thousand - 600,000 and 3 million and we don't know the exact numbers because these-this data comes from polling. And this data was confirmed by the CDC study that Obama had-had ordered last year-or a couple years ago. 600,000 to 3 million uses of a firearm to save a to prevent a crime, to save somebody's life, to prevent a crime by private users, by private owners of firearms. If we take the firearms from the private owners we're gonna have an increase in-in crime. We've seen gun ownership more than double in the last 20 years and homicide rates have over that period of time. That’s not all due to private gun ownership it's also due to good policing but right now we need to encourage people to be able to defend themselves.
You think background checks is discouraging people from being able to defend themself?
If it prevents somebody who needs a firearm from getting a gun. And they need to protect themselves.
And it would prevent them because.. they wouldn't want to deal with the hassle?
No you have to understand you have to understand the background system is very flawed, there's a lot of-of background checks that are made every year that are wrong, the person is okay. Remember Ted Kennedy got barred from flying on airplanes because the list was wrong? Well this these lists have errors in them and people can be barred, people can be killed. So you're-you're trading you're saying that one life well one life is somebody who didn't get a gun maybe got killed the next day because they needed one.
All right we have just less than a minute left, so what's your closing thought, closing message to voters?
I think you need to understand the source of what-what the background check what this law is all about. This was Michael Blumberg's long term goal of trying to create a federal registry system for all firearms and that's what this is all about. If you really cared about the background check system, he'd be putting his money into making-making those improvements to the current background check system that we have.
Okay, John thank you so much for your time, I sure do appreciate it.
I appreciate it, thank you.
Well that is it for this episode of Face the State but for more information on all of this just can head to our website KTVN.com. Thank you for being with us. We'll see you next week.
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