The FBI Won’t Help Nevada Enforce Its Background Check Law

The 2017 legislation might change that though.

Hand holding a sign supporting Nevada's background check law

Nevada passed a law requiring background checks for private party gun sales. But  the FBI refuses to conduct the background checks and the state lacks authority to do so. Essentially, the law is unenforceable.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt issued the opinion on the gun law, which was cheered by gun rights advocates. People who supported the background checks felt the blow, especially because a 2013 bill requiring universal screenings was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The 2017 legislative session might see some action as gun rights advocates and the opponents try to work out some compromises. The Legislature convenes February 6. Lawmakers, such as Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said the Senate is looking at laws to ensure that the law is enforced.

During the November 2016 election, Nevada voters approved by a very small margin Ballot Question 1. It was supposed to take effect at the beginning of the year.  It required background checks on private-party gun transfers, similar to sales made when someone buys a gun through a federally licensed dealer. But unlike retail sales, this law says that dealers conducting background checks for private transfers must contact the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System to determine whether the buyer is eligible to purchase or possess firearms under state and federal law.

On December 14,the FBI  informed the Nevada Department of Public Safety that it will not conduct these background checks. “Accordingly, the official Attorney General Opinion concludes that without this central feature … the Background Check Act cannot commence,” said Monica Moazez, spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, in a statement.

The opinion concluded that “the recent passage of the Nevada legislation regarding background checks for private sales cannot dictate how federal resources are applied.”

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