Nevada’s Attorney General placed the state’s new universal background check measure on hold indefinitely Sunday after the FBI claimed the initiative is unenforceable.
The measure, pushed by gun control advocates and approved by a thin margin by Nevada voters last month during the elections, focuses on background checks of individuals during gun transactions between private citizens.
Federal law requires licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on buyers. However, unless state law says otherwise, persons who buy firearms from private sellers are not federally mandated to undergo a background check.
The problem in Nevada, however, is who would be enforcing the background checks during private firearm transactions, since it now requires a third party to federally vet the transaction.
According to The Washington Times, the FBI contacted the Nevada Department of Public Safety saying it would not be responsible for the checks.
The bureau said in a letter to Nevada state officials that it is the state’s responsibility to set up the background checks and the ballot measure’s passage “cannot dictate how federal resources are applied.”
Nevada is one of 12 states that handles its own firearm background checks through the Department of Public Safety’s Central Repository as opposed to the FBI’s system, but the gun control initiative bans the use of the Central Repository for private sales background checks — leaving it with no authority on the issue.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, a Republican, concluded that unless the FBI changes its mind, the state cannot enforce the background check mandate of private gun transactions in the state.
“It is manifestly unjust to criminally penalize someone for failing to perform an act that is impossible to perform,” Laxalt wrote in a statement last Wednesday. “Despite its intent to merely regulate the transfer or sale of firearms between private parties, because it is impossible to perform the background checks as required by the Act, the Act now unconditionally prohibits such transactions under the threat of criminal prosecution for conduct that was formerly lawful and routine.”
Gun control advocates are not buying it. “We think the law is clear and that it can be implemented and that it just takes some cooperation by the FBI and the state officials,” Jennifer Crowe, the Nevada representative for Moms Demand Action, part of Everytown for Gun Safety told The Times. “There is a solution if the state is willing to work with the FBI to figure it out.”