The first act of our new state legislature a couple of weeks ago was to pass S.B. 143, a bill that revived ballot Question One, passed by Nevada voters two and a half years ago but never implemented by former Gov. Sandoval. That two-year-old ballot question asked voters in the Silver State whether or not they wanted to strengthen background checks on firearms purchases — closing the so-called gun show loophole — and it passed with majority support from Clark County but a minority in every other county.
I’ve written before about the pointlessness of Question One, which will do nothing to increase safety of Nevada voters or their families. In fact it was almost certainly destined to fail, at which point its supporters could be expected to call for additional legislation to further crack down on firearms owners. S.B. 143 was the Democrats’ response to Sandoval’s inaction. It passed on a Democratic Party line vote and was signed into law immediately by Gov. Sisolak. It will come into effect in January 2020, and I predict it will absolutely not enhance safety in Nevada. The Democrats’ eventual goal, I believe, is registration of all firearms, a precursor to confiscation at some future point.
A public town hall took place on Feb. 26 at a local restaurant in Gardnerville between Douglas County Commissioner Dave Nelson and some 300 outspoken voters who came to support Nelson’s proposition to direct relevant county officials not to enforce the terms of S.B. 143. The town hall meeting was announced on the 24th, and after only four days the groundswell of public outrage at S.B. 143 had reached such proportions the large room was jammed to maximum capacity, and plans are underway to repeat the event in a much larger venue two weeks later, on March 12, at 7 p.m. in the Senior Center on Waterloo.
Public sentiment at the meeting this past week was overwhelmingly supportive of Nelson’s proposal to take a stand in favor of the Second Amendment and against S.B. 143. The commissioner explained that this was for him a constitutional issue, and he was outraged former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had spent more than $10 million supporting Question One two years ago.
Assemblyman James Wheeler also spoke, pointing out public sentiment at the public hearing on S.B. 143 was more than 10 to 1 against the bill, and most of the supporters were from out of state while the opponents were Nevadans. Nevertheless the bill passed.
Nelson told participants that a parallel public groundswell was building against a similar gun law in New Mexico, where, according to the Las Cruces Sun News, “a slate of Democrat-sponsored proposals designed to stem gun violence (has) drawn criticism from all but a few of the state’s sheriffs, while at least 16 counties have adopted ‘sanctuary’ resolutions saying sheriffs shouldn’t be required to enforce any measures they consider unconstitutional.” This is the tactic Nelson is recommending in Douglas County: to instruct county officials they don’t need to enforce S.B. 143.
The mood of the evening was unmistakable: Nevada’s new legislature had rushed an unpopular measure through with minimal advance notice, knowing full well it didn’t have the support of Nevada’s voters outside Clark County. Many Douglas Countians showed up at the town hall to protest the loss of their constitutional rights and to seek a solution. Nelson’s proposal is to follow New Mexico’s example, a suggestion I hope will send a clear signal to Sisolak and Democratic lawmakers Nevadans don’t want their rights trampled.
Fred LaSor retired from U.S. government service 30 years ago and lives in the Carson Valley.