Nye County Sheriff says she won’t enforce background checks law on most private gun sales

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The controversy continues weeks after Governor Steve Sisolak, D-Nev. signed a bill requiring background checks on most private party gun sales.  However, Nye County’s sheriff said Thursday that she will not enforce the Senate Bill 143 when it takes effect in about 10 years.

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly sent a letter to Governor Sisolak saying in part:

“As sheriff of Nye County, I agree with Sheriff Watts: I will not participate in the enforcement of this new law…”

One of the supporters who helped with the efforts to pass the measure reacted to the sheriff’s letter during a taping of Politics Now.

Patrick Walker, Politics NOW host: “What do you think?”
Annette Magnus, Executive Director of Battle Born Progress: “I think that’s hilarious, and they’re going to enforce it eventually. We’ll take it to the courts, that’s fine, but at the end of the day, it’s going to get enforced, whether they like it or not.”

Wherley’s decision is much like the sheriffs of Pershing, White Pine, and Eureka counties. They say the new law creates a burden on law enforcement officers.  Plus, they feel the citizens don’t want it.

“And vote no on question 1,” said a 2016 NRA political ad featuring Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen.

He like many other rural sheriffs were not on board with Senate Bill 143 also known as Question 1, so it failed in the rural counties. However, the massive amount of support Question 1 received in Clark County allowed the measure to pass by less than a percentage point.

Former Attorney General Adam Laxalt put the bill on hold due to a requirement that the FBI perform the background checks.

Last month, lawmakers re-wrote and passed a revised version of the bill.

“It’s time to get serious about gun violence,” said Anne Germain, 1 October survivor.  “It’s time to enact the measure that Nevadans voted for.”

“Prohibited persons do not subject themselves to background checks,” said Steve Johnston, a licensed firearms dealer. “This law will not change that.”

Both Governor Sisolak and Attorney General Aaron Ford, D-NV responded to Sheriff Wehrly’s letter, saying they look forward to working with the sheriffs to review ways to enforce the law.

“My office and that of the attorney general are aware of the letters from multiple rural Nevada sheriffs regarding SB143,” Gov. Sisolak said. “While the law will not take effect until January 2020, I look forward to working with Attorney General Ford and local law enforcement over the next several months to review ways to enforce this law, as is the case with all other Nevada laws that elected officers are sworn to uphold.”

“As Nevada’s top law enforcement officer, I have a constitutional obligation to uphold the laws of the state,” Ford said. “That includes a law passed in 2015 by then-Senate Majority Leader, Republican Michael Roberson, to prevent counties from passing their own ordinances that conflicted with state gun laws. Republican Governor Sandoval signed this bill into law. In 2016, voters approved a ballot question requiring background checks on most firearm transfers. Just last month, the Nevada Legislature passed a similar law that closed the background check loophole. That law is set to go into effect in January, 2020. Between now and the effective date, I look forward to sitting down with sheriffs and other local law enforcement officials to discuss the best way implement the laws we have sworn to uphold.”

8 News NOW reached out to the Nye County Sheriff’s office for a follow-up interview with Sheriff Wehrly or to ask further questions, but our calls went unreturned.

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