Understanding why Question 1, law on gun background checks, was tied up in court

Local News

A Clark County judge struck down an attempt to revive the state’s law on background checks for private gun sales.

Voters approved the law by a narrow margin in 2016, but it was never implemented.

From the beginning, the law was controversial, and when the dust settled on election night, Question 1, as it appeared on the ballot, had passed by less than one percent.

However, on Monday, a Clark County District judge sided with Governor Brian Sandoval, R-N, and Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, R-NV, saying the law is unenforceable.

Nevada District Court tosses out Question 1 lawsuit

For supporters of Nevada’s law requiring background checks on private gun sales, Monday’s ruling to strike a lawsuit to force the implementation of the nearly 2-year old ballot initiative is deflating.

“I think it’s really unfortunate,” said Justin Jones, former Nevada state senator. “The will of the voters, here on Question 1, was to implement universal background checks.”

Jones helped write the ballot initiative, and sponsored a similar bill that was vetoed by Governor Sandoval in 2013.

In his ruling on the lawsuit, Judge Joe Hardy Junior said that the state cannot force the FBI to perform background checks as written in the law, and the agency has refused to do so.  As a result, Laxalt then issued a legal opinion that because of that the law was unenforceable.

“Adam Laxalt fought against Question 1, before it was on the ballot when it was on the ballot, and afterward,” Jones said.

Laxalt did oppose Question 1, but Judge Hardy ruled that both the attorney general and the governor made attempts to convince FBI officials to perform the background checks after the law passed.

Laxalt addressed the issue in a radio interview with KXNT R host Alan Stock last week.

“I was asked by a state agency, the department of public safety, that currently does background checks in our state, ‘what do we do with this ballot intitiative,’ and we said ‘you know, if the FBI won’t do this, it’s hard to see how this is enforceable,'” Laxalt said.

Opponents to the ballot initiative say the law was poorly written, thus making the law unenforceable.

Another point underscoring how politically charged this initiative was: Two camps provided the bulk of the funding for and against Question 1.  Of the $19 million raised by Nevadans for background checks, more than $18 million came from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or his political action committee Everytown for Gun Safety.

The NRA donated virtually all of the $6.5 million spent against the initiative.

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