It appears that a bill passed earlier this year to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms from one private party to another is being misinterpreted to apply also to Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) Permit holders, who are currently exempt from such background checks when buying from a licensed firearm dealer.

First reported by The Nevada Independent, a donation-sponsored online news outlet, Department of Public Safety (DPS) a month ago sent a letter to all licensed firearm dealers telling them CCW holders will have to now undergo a background check. Senate Bill 143 changed the law to require dealers to conduct background checks for private sales.

The letter does not cite any verbiage in the law but rather relies on testimony before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Judiciary committees in February to support its conclusion.

The pertinent testimony involves questions to the attorney for the gun-grabbing, Michael Bloomberg financed Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushed a narrowly approved voter referendum in 2016 to require background checks prior to private gun transfers. Because the initiative required the background checks to be conducted by the FBI and the FBI refused to do so, it was deemed unenforceable.

SB143 fixed that flaw by requiring a state agency to conduct such background checks after submission by licensed firearm dealers, who may charge an unspecified fee for doing so.

In the committee testimony, Everytown attorney William Rosen was asked by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles whether CCW holders would be required to undergo background checks under the law. Rosen replied, “That is correct.”

Tolles followed up, “It makes sense that someone who is licensed for a CCW and shows his or her card should not be subject to additional checks. Why would that not apply to private sales?”

Rosen basically replied that CCW permits last for five years and there is a possibility a disqualifying event such as a restraining order might not get into the system to revoke the CCW. Might?

No lawmaker voiced an agreement with Rosen’s contention that this is what the new law requires. Only Rosen’s contention was relied on to show legislative intent.

As a result, Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, sent a letter to DPS challenging the interpretation of the law. “A review of SB143 provides no basis for this determination by DPS. Moreover, the minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary have no legal weight or authority and were never incorporated into the statute itself,” Turner wrote.

Turner noted that the statue requires a licensed dealer to treat the private transaction as if the dealer was conducting the sale from its own inventory. A licensed dealer is allowed to accept the CCW permit in lieu of a background check.

He argues the state cannot override federal law as it pertains to background check exemptions for CCW holders and calls on the agency to change its directive to firearm dealers.

The Nevada Independent notes that the change in background check requirements would especially burden rural counties — pointing out for example that 15 percent of individuals in Nye County and 13 percent of the people in Storey County are CCW holders.

DPS should change its interpretation of the law to one that relies on what the law actually says rather than the vague wishes and whims and speculation of East Coast gun grabbers. — TM