They’re not done yet, advocates for “gun safety” said Thursday as they protested Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veto of a law requiring background checks for many gun sales.
The veto quashed yet another effort to restrict the sale of guns to domestic abusers, convicted felons and the dangerously mentally ill, people who by law are not allowed to own firearms but in practice can easily acquire the weapons. A similar bill on the federal level failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year.
Sandoval’s veto came one day before the six-month anniversary of the slaughter of more than two dozen people, including many children, at an elementary school in Connecticut at the hand of gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. The mass killing sparked a renewed effort to do something — anything, for gun-safety and gun-control advocates — to limit the availability of such weapons.
But Sandoval, a former federal judge, said in his veto message that background checks “constitute an erosion of Nevadan’s Second Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.” Gun advocates have argued that background checks, despite safeguards included in the proposed laws, would create a de facto registry which the government would use to confiscate the weapons of gun owners.
Sandoval did not say whether he believes the existing federal requirement for background checks, which applies only to federally licensed firearms dealers and is easily evaded by buying at gun shows and other venues, is unconstitutional. He also did not offer an opinion on whether Clark County’s requirement that owners register their handguns with Metro Police undermines Second Amendment rights.
About 80 gun-safety advocates bearing signs slamming Sandoval for his veto rejected those arguments at a protest later Thursday. They said Sandoval’s veto has helped ensure another mass killing such at the Newtown, Conn., murders or the September 2011 killing of five people at a Carson City IHOP.
In a protest and memorial to the dead at Sunset Park, the protesters, some of them associated with Organizing for America, the renamed campaign organization that supported Pres. Obama’s election, warned that there could be electoral consequences for Sandoval. Two independent polls conducted during the legislative session both showed 86 percent support for universal background checks for gun sales or transfers.
“It’s a big mistake going against 86 percent of Nevadans,” said Joe Njoroge of ProgressNow Nevada, one of several nonprofit groups that supported the bill. “In 2014, we can use Sandoval’s veto against him.”
“Do you value the lives of Nevadans or the donations of the NRA?” Laura Martin, with the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, rhetorically asked the governor.
Several speakers at the early evening event referred to relatives who were lost to violence. State Sen. Pat Spearman, a Las Vegas Democrat who supported the bill, said two of her brothers were murdered.
“People have got to stop getting weapons when they do not deserve them,” Spearman said. “Somebody is asleep and needs to be awakened.”
Also speaking was Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, who led the effort to pass the bill, Senate Bill 221. Jones, who faces a recall effort from gun enthusiasts for his support of background checks, said he had the “humbling” experience of meeting survivors of the shootings at Newtown, Carson City, and of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and killing of six in Tucson in 2011.
Jones said he has received “hateful” emails and phone calls because of the legislation, but those messages and Sandoval’s veto would not stop the effort, locally or nationally, to require background checks.
“We’re going to keep going and we’re going to win,” he said.