As reported recently in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, county sheriffs around the state, 16 of 17, oppose ballot measure No. 1 that will be on the general election ballot in November.
The measure deals with background checks for persons who buy a firearm through a licensed gun dealer, “except for temporary transfers of a weapon while hunting or target shooting, for immediate self-defense and transfers between immediate family members.” A licensed dealer would also be permitted to charge a fee for doing the background check.
However, 16 of the 17 sheriffs in Nevada, including Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee, say it is only a feel good measure by legislators, who can then say, “See, we did something. Now we’ll be a lot safer.”
Lee says the sheriff’s think, “No, you won’t be a lot safer, because Measure One doesn’t do enough. It doesn’t deal with persons who might be suspected of having mental health issues, which many sheriffs feel is the main cause of much of the gun violence nationwide. I think the government needs to do more on tracking mental health issues a possible gun buyer may have, or have had. There is no tracking system for that right now. Really, the law doesn’t allow us to track them because of HIPAA laws. If someone had been given a mental health evaluation, for whatever problem there might be, there’s no way to track that. No way to say, this person shouldn’t have a gun, but this person should. However, we don’t know how mentally stable the second person really might be, can’t track that.”
He said, speaking for himself and other county sheriffs, “We feel the mental health issue is a lot bigger than background checks between this or that individual.”
If Question 1 were to be passed, he said, “It is going to put a huge burden on law enforcement, because if you sell a gun to a neighbor or a second party, that person has to undergo a background check. Now, we’re going to be inundated with these type of things. Not a big issue with gun show sales, but rather the private party sales.”
Background checks are already being done, but not in all cases Lee said. “And another problem is that such background checks are not going to stop criminals from getting the guns they want. They didn’t get their guns though any of those channels anyway, and certainly are not going to go through a background check from a gun show. Criminals get theirs on the black market, or simply handed to them by other criminals.”
In some cases, guns have been purchased through legal channels, using background checks, which didn’t show anything, but were later used in violent crimes.
“The mental health issue is a lot bigger issue,” and Lee again he criticized lawmakers with “not focusing on something that can make some change, but rather focusing instead on something that is just a feel good measure, that you can feel then you have done something. I don’t agree with it.”
The Review-Journal article noted backers of the measure claim “to have broad support ranging from former sheriffs in Clark and Washoe counties, Bill Young and Mike Haley, to endorsements from groups including the Latin Chamber of Commerce, Nevada Parent Teacher Association, school teachers’ union and the Nevada Public Health Association, the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers and the Las Vegas Fraternal Order of Police.”
The National Rifle Association is the leading opponent of the measure to the Nevada measure.
The R-J quoted Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly, saying she believed it was just another chipping away of Second Amendment rights. “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”
Lee said a national database should be established that can track a person who may have been treated at a mental health facility for whatever reason, have it documented and how the person is doing now, and have that accessible for law enforcement. “We’d be OK with that, we feel that is at least getting some work on the mental health problem.”
He noted at the recent convention of Nevada County Sheriffs in Ely, there was talk of what criteria should be considered. “We did discuss that, and a year or so ago, the sheriffs came out with a real good list of proposals, and mental health was right at the top of the list.”
He said there are a good number of people out in the public all around the state who do have mental health issues, “and right now, nothing precludes any one of them from getting a gun, because a background check does not address that issue.”