Thursday, May 23, 2013

SB 221 Passes Senate (But Still Faces Challenges Ahead)

We've been hearing quite a bit lately on SB 221, State Senator Justin Jones' (D-Enterprise) bill requiring background checks for gun purchases. After Congress failed to do so, gun safety advocates returned to state legislatures to demand action. So now, Carson City is the center of the action on gun safety reform.

And yesterday, we actually saw some action. The full Senate finally passed SB 221. Yet while the bill passed, it did so on a strict party line (11-10) vote.

Senators on both sides of the issue recounted stories of family members killed by a gun as they argued the merits of closing the background check loophole. A cadre of survivors and family members of victims in the recent spate of mass shootings from around the country sat in the Senate gallery to witness the vote.

"My dad was my best friend," Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said, remembering the morning in 1990 when his mother called to tell him his father had been murdered. "I’ll never forget that day. It was 5:06 in the morning."

He then voted in favor of Senate Bill 221, which would require private parties to go to a federally licensed gun dealer to run a background check before conducting their gun sales. [...]

Democrats, harkening back to the harrowing mass shootings in Tucson, AZ; Newtown, CT; and even the mass shooting that killed three national guard members at an IHOP in Carson City, argued the bill did not infringe on gun owners rights.

"This doesn’t hurt us," said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, who comes from a family of avid hunters and owns a variety of guns. "This is not about hurting anyone’s rights. This is about an attempt to keep guns out of the wrong hands."

Oh, yes. That's right. We heard more of the "OBAMA GUN GRAB!!!" conspiracy nonsense from Senate Republicans. We even saw poison pill amendments, including one from Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson making the background checks provision voluntary instead of mandatory. Ummm, hello... Will anyone trying to purchase firearms and ammunition for nefarious, criminal purposes voluntarily submit to a background check? File that in the "Totally Defeats the Purpose" Department.

So while SB 221 passed the full Senate and faces good odds in the Assembly, the bill now faces even more difficult odds once it reaches Governor Brian Sandoval's (R-NRA) desk. If all #NVLeg Republicans unite in "TEA" tinged opposition (even for something with 86% support!), will Governor Sandoval stick his neck out to sign SB 221 anyway? That's the key 86% question.

Yet while SB 221 faces major political challenges in Carson City, the outside world continues to remind us of the real policy failings of letting the gun lobby have its way. We've especially been experiencing this firsthand here in Nevada. Can we afford continued inaction?

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