County Commissioners in Elko and Eureka counties have recently been considering the idea of becoming what is called a Second Amendment sanctuary county, a declaration of defiance of Nevada SB 143.
As reported in the Elko Daily News Feb. 25, commissioners there have also briefly discussed the idea.
Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza told the paper he felt that Nevada Senate Bill 143, signed into law by Governor Steve Sisolak Feb. 15, and scheduled to take effect Jan. 2, 2020, dealing with background checks for gun purchasers was “a bad bill that is not enforceable.”
He also said he had heard that other counties in Nevada will be expressing their own disagreements with SB 143.
Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts wrote a letter to Governor Sisolak Feb. 19 in which he said, “In the wake of recent criminal events and activity, politicians are attempting to use the death of innocent victims to advocate for laws that prevent honest, laws abiding Nevadans from transferring firearms between individuals without a background check…We must not allow, nor shall we tolerate, the actions of criminals, no matter how heinous the crime, to prompt politicians to enact laws that will infringe upon the liberties of responsible, law abiding citizens who have broken no laws.”
Watts concluded his letter stating, “It is the position of this Sheriff, that I refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians.”
Meanwhile, Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee said while in support of the efforts of the counties, he felt the Commission boards in the counties “ought to enact a county ordinance first. That way I am abiding by the ordinance in not supporting the measure. I don’t like the thought of just saying I’m not enforcing this law.”
Lee also noted he thought SB 143 “will not do anything to stop gun violence, and how will it be enforced? How do you enforce person A selling to his neighbor or relative in his own front room without a background check? And thirdly, if you do enforce something like that, you’re immediately making two criminals out of otherwise completely law abiding citizens. I don’t think that is right.”
Sheriff Narvaiza told the Elko Daily News,“White Pine’s on board, Eureka, Douglas, Lander, and a couple other counties down south are on board for this. The support has just been overwhelming.”
He added, “But it is a bill that does nothing for anybody. Nothing, nothing whatsoever. All it would do is add an additional burden to honest gun owners.”
The Daily News article noted, “In the past several months many counties and a few cities in other states have passed resolutions saying they are Second Amendment sanctuaries that are not in support of and will not enforce particular gun laws that have been recently passed by their legislatures.”
Advocates of the bill claim a major goal of the legislation is to close the “gun show loophole” which allows people to purchase a firearm at a gun show without a background check. Nevada SB 143 applies to every private gun sale.
Attempts to enact gun background check regulations like SB 143 have been tried before in Nevada. In 2013, a background check bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval. In 2016, Question 1 was narrowly approved by Nevada voters.
That measure was very similar to SB 143, except that Question 1 required the FBI to carry out the background checks. The FBI said it did not want to take on this additional work, and then Attorney General Adam Laxalt and a district court judge ended up saying that the measure was not enforceable. SB 143 says that state of Nevada will conduct the background checks.
Approval of a Second Amendment sanctuary resolution that might be voted on by each county will mean basically the Commissioners would support all other state laws and gun laws, just not support SB 143.
Further published reports have stated some counties in other states that discussed Second Amendment sanctuary status have seen huge amounts of public support. In particular, Otero County, New Mexico, where the county commission held a meeting on Feb. 25 to declare that they are a Second Amendment sanctuary county.