Gun-safety advocates, among them two Nevada legislators and a survivor of the 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, promised Monday to sustain their effort to expand background checks for would-be gun buyers.
Standing against a backdrop of a tall bus covered with the names of people who have died in gun violence, Stephen Barton, who survived a shotgun blast to his face and upper torso, said 33 American men, women and children are shot every day. Background checks wouldn’t stop all gun violence, he acknowledg4ed, but it would curb some of the numbers.
Barton was on a cross-country bike trip in July last year and decided to go to the movies while staying with friends in Aurora. “We chose, unfortunately, the wrong theater at the wrong time.” That’s not Barton’s only connection with mass gun violence; he is from Connecticut, not from Newtown, where 26 people, most of them children, died in a December attack. He is now an activist with the national organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
The Aurora and Newtown attacks last year helped fuel efforts in Nevada and nationally to strengthen background checks, but thus far those efforts have failed in the Silver State, thanks to Gov. Brian Sandoval's veo of a background-check bill from the Legislature, and the national level, thanks to a Republican-led filibuster in the U.S. Senate. Other states, notably New York and Connecticut, have passed gun-control and background-check laws.
Linda Cavazos, who described herself as a licensed mental-health-care provider in Las Vegas, also spoke to the crowd of about 50 at the rally-slash-press conference in Paradise Park in the south Valley. She said it is impossible for her to add names of severely disturbed patients to the no-buy list, even if a buyer goes to a licensed gun dealer who is required to do background checks. Federal authorities estimate that about 40 percent of all gun purchases avoid the background check altogether.
“The system that we have right now is not working,” Cavazos said. “We are not going to back down. We are here for the long ride.”
Also speaking for universal background checks at the event were Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel and State Sen. Justin Jones. The two Democrats led their caucuses to pass the background-check legislation that the governor vetoed. They promised to try to override the governor’s veto in the next regular session of the Legislature.
Following the speakers, volunteers spent about three hours reading the names of hundreds of Americans who have died in gun violence since the Newtown tragedy.