On the Nevada Ballot: Background Checks for Gun Purchases

As a registered voter in Nevada, it’s your duty to stay informed about what questions will be on the ballot. If any of the measures on this year’s general election ballot pass, it will change state policies. Question 1 on the November 8, 2016, ballot is the Nevada Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative.

How Did the Initiative Join the Ballot?

The Nevada Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative is an indirect initiated state statute, meaning citizens of Nevada began it by collecting signatures. The campaign supporting Question 1, Nevadans For Background Checks, raised about $5 million for the initiative. After citizens collected enough signatures, they sent the proposed law to Nevada’s state legislature. Legislature opted to put the measure up to a vote instead of passing it directly into law, as is their right. They could have changed the measure before putting it on the ballot, but in this case, they left it as the citizens wrote it.

Chapter 202 of the Nevada Revised Statutes outlines the process for attaining a concealed carry permit for firearms in Nevada. Currently, Nevada does not mandate background checks for firearm transfers between unlicensed individuals. The “Brady Bill” does require background checks when purchasing a firearm from licensed dealers, but private and unlicensed dealers are exempt from the rule. Buyers can purchase firearms at gun shows, online, or in person without having to pass a background check.

Explanation of Question 1, The Nevada Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative

Question 1 proposes an amendment for Chapter 202. The amendment would prohibit a person from transferring or selling a firearm to someone else unless a federally licensed firearms dealer conducts a federal background check on the potential transferee or buyer. Some circumstances would be exceptions to this new rule, including transfers or sales to:

  • Law enforcement agencies.
  • Immediate family members.
  • Executors of estate upon the firearm owner’s death.

Transferring or selling antique firearms also would be exempt from background checks under the proposed amendment. In some cases – such as while hunting, at organized lawful competitions, during public performances involving firearms, and to prevent great bodily harm or immediate death – a temporary firearm transfer without a background check would be acceptable.

A “yes” vote to Question 1 supports the requirement for firearm transfers to go through licensed dealers, only after a federal background check. A “no” vote would retain Chapter 202 provisions. If Question 1 passes into law, potential buyers or transferees of firearms would have to appear before a federally licensed firearm dealer with the seller/transferor. The dealer would conduct the background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, operated by the FBI. The dealer would be able to charge a fee for this process.

Under the provisions of the proposed amendment, failing to abide by the new rules would be punishable by criminal penalties. Any unlicensed dealer who transfers firearms to another unlicensed person in violation of the Nevada Background Checks for Gun Purchases Initiative would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor for the first conviction. This is punishable by a maximum of one year in county jail and/or a fine of $1,000. For each subsequent conviction, the unlicensed person would be guilty of a category C felony. This is punishable by one to five years’ imprisonment in state prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Polls currently show the support for Question 1 in Nevada to be about 63%. The financial impact of this initiative is difficult to determine. Between the additional FBI expenditures for the background check and the $25 fee licensed dealers could impose for the service, there may be no financial impact on the state government. However, there are several different scenarios and agreements the state could make with the FBI that would result in various outcomes.