Free Background Checks on Private Gun Sales in Nevada Provide Political Middle Ground

The disparity between political views on gun control seems to grow with every national tragedy or school shooting, but Nevada state senators show signs of finding middle ground between the right and left wings where gun control is concerned. Recently, Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson sponsered and helped pass a bill (SB 240) that made background checks free for private gun sales in the state of Nevada. Private gun sales account for about 40% of gun sales nationwide.

While this move to make the gun acquisition process more streamlined seems to reflect the stereotypical Republican views, SB 240 comes with some additions that feed into Democrat desires on gun control. Democrats were not able to amend the bill to include private gun sales to prohibit convicted stalkers from acquiring a gun or individuals with a restraining order from having to relinquish their own firearms, but Roberson was very passionate about increasing safety protocol in requiring the bill to prevent mentally ill convicts from purchasing a gun in private gun sales. SB 240 also enhances the requirements on reporting criminal records dealing with mental illness. Roberson wanted to address current safety issues with gun acquisition without violating constitutional rights.

SB 240 may make background checks for private gun sales in Nevada free (the previous fee was $35), but it does not make these screenings mandatory. Private gun sales can still commence without a required background check, and the 2016 ballot will include a statute mandating background checks for these sales.

The matter of requiring background checks for all firearms transactions in the private sector becomes problematic because the goverment considers any sale not conducted in a federally-licensed facility to be private. Thus, while private arenas like gun shows could use more regulation in screening buyers, sales between family members and friends are much harder to control and some argue that managing these transactions through background checks could infringe on constitutional rights.

The details of Roberson’s bill appear to address the desire of many Americans to maintain the right to purchase a firearm while considering safety concerns that have contributed to past crises. Eliminating the cost of a background check when purchasing a gun in the private sector also eliminates some of the hesitation in consenting to such a screening. Criminal background checks for firearms certainly help to ensure that those guns do not fall into dangerous or criminally insane hands, but small adjustments in legislation can also provide safety measures without encroaching on citizens’ rights.

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