Gun control group targets Nev. sheriffs over new law

The group is going against lawmakers and sheriffs who say they won't enforce a new law that requires background checks on all gun sales

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A national gun control lobbying organization on Tuesday made Nevada the latest Western state where it is trying to show that gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association are behind a "Second Amendment sanctuary" drive. 

The Brady advocacy group said it believes gun rights advocates improperly orchestrated resolutions by rural lawmakers and sheriffs who say they won't enforce a new state law requiring background checks on all gun sales, including purchases at gun shows and on the internet.

An overflowing crowd packs the Elko County Commission chamber as Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza presents his case for the county to declare a
An overflowing crowd packs the Elko County Commission chamber as Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza presents his case for the county to declare a "Second Amendment sanctuary" in Elko, Nev (Tim Burmeister/Elko Daily Free Press via AP, File)

"These Nevada county commissions and sheriffs have gone rogue," Brady President Kris Brown said in a statement saying the officials are endangering public safety by declaring they won't enforce strict background checks.

"If your job is to keep your constituents safe and defend public safety, you should have a vested interest in keeping guns out of dangerous hands," she said.

The National Rifle Association didn't immediately respond to messages about the Brady organization filings seeking emails and communications from commissioners in four of Nevada's 17 counties and sheriffs in three.

Don Turner, head of the pro-gun Nevada Firearms Coalition, said he supports the counties and sheriffs for balking at laws "that infringe on U.S. and Nevada constitutions."

Brady spokesman Max Samis acknowledged that communications and lobbying happens on both sides of the gun issue.

"This is different," he said. "This is telling law enforcement officers not to enforce the law."

The push for documents in Nevada follows requests by the Brady organization for records last month in New Mexico, where at least 26 county commissions approved so-called Second Amendment sanctuary ordinances in opposition to an expanded gun background checks law due to take effect July 1.

Brady is considering similar action in Washington state, Illinois and Colorado, Samis said.

In Washington and Illinois, officials in mostly rural areas have vowed not to enforce new gun buyer screening laws.

In Colorado, gun rights activists say about half the state's 64 counties have symbolically declared themselves Second Amendment sanctuary areas in opposition to a "red flag" gun law signed last week by Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. It allows firearms to be taken from people a judge deems to pose a danger.

The officials in several rural Nevada counties focus on a law set to go into effect next January.

A newly Democratic-majority Legislature passed the measure and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak quickly signed it in February, more than two years after a background check initiative was passed by voters in 2016.

Sisolak called it a memorial to victims of the October 2017 Las Vegas Strip massacre that became the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Despite lawsuits, the initiative was not enacted during the Republican administration of former Gov. Brian Sandoval and former Attorney General Adam Laxalt. They insisted it was flawed and that the state does a better job of checking records of gun buyers than the FBI.

Elected officials in Nevada's two largest urban areas, Las Vegas and Reno, have said they will enforce the new state background screenings law when it goes into effect.

In rural Nye County, Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said she wanted to see what the Brady campaign seeks before she comments about the public documents filing.

Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts referred to a letter he sent in February to Sisolak, saying he would "refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians."

"Nowhere in my letter does it say I am not enforcing the law," Watts said Tuesday.

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