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Gun safety issue draws fire

Mention the subject of gun safety in Nevada, and you’re bound to draw metaphorical fire from every angle.

That’s the case after last week’s column on the topic in light of the effort by Nevadans for Background Checks to broaden the state law on gun purchases. Advocates for expanded background checks point to statistics that say making it tougher for those with histories of mental illness or domestic violence to buy handguns saves lives.

Wynn Resorts co-founder Elaine Wynn is the latest high-profile supporter of Nevadans for Background Checks. The group includes former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young.

Others retort that gun laws aren’t effective and also erode the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

After reminding me that background checks are now the norm at Nevada gun shows, readers offered opinions of varying calibers on the issue and whether any measure of increased regulation does anything but restrict the Second Amendment rights of the law-abiding. In the column, I used a Las Vegas news account from 60 years ago as a reminder that the issue has been with us a long time.

Here’s an example of a few of the many responses, some of which were far longer than the column itself.

From Loi Escudero: “Background checks do not magically remove guns from the streets. They do not magically make people that make a habit of breaking laws follow that specific law. Over 90 percent of all mass shootings are committed with legally purchased guns. Maybe you can educate us why the liars paid for by Bloomberg that love trotting out Newtown victims forget to tell us that their thinly veiled registration schemes would have done nothing to prevent that shooting.”

From Donald Cline: “The purchase or transfer of a firearm is not criminal conduct, Mr. Smith. You, in your distorted view of reality, may wish it to be so, but it is not and never will be. The legislation you advocate will not change the fact of reality, and will accomplish nothing except the destruction of the Rule of Law. Law-biding people know when the law is an ass, and they will refuse to comply. On the other side of the issue, police officers with an agenda of their own will selectively enforce the tyranny you suggest, which will mightily encourage those who know the law is an ass to reject its enforcements with force of arms.

“An insurrection against our Constitution has been long underway, Mr. Smith. …”

From Gerald Carrick: “Let’s hope the vote is NO, if not the state will hire a bunch of paper shufflers and nothing will change, just another smog test boondoggle and the black market on guns will grow.”

From Michael Rotello: “The simple solution to gun show sales is for local governments that license the shows to ban the private party sales of firearms at the gun shows. We do not need anymore new gun control laws. The current laws should be reviewed and amended if required to make them current. You can argue for or against gun control laws, but until you have a mental health component that connects all the records, criminal and medical with background checks, the investigations are incomplete.”

From Mark Weidert: “I am not advocating for any position, however, I wonder why obvious side effects are not brought up in these debates. For instance, if you want background checks, would you enjoy being denied access to a tool to protect your family because you were depressed one day and sought the help of a mental health professional? Do we really want to force mentally unstable people away from mental help professionals?”

From Steve Lowe: “… Finally, we must consider why existing gun laws are ignored, and if new restrictions will help. The existing restrictions on felons possessing firearms are draconian yet ignored. … How many felons (in possession of firearms) have had the book thrown at them in Nevada? None. Zero. Nada. Why are these incredibly severe laws ignored, while some people including yourself seek additional restrictions on law abiding gun owners?”

And, finally, a different take from Douglas Manookian: “Again, I would reiterate that without a much improved mental health process, the background issue is almost moot. Almost all of the past multiple-victim shootings have been perpetrated by people with mental health issues. Background checks would not have prevented any of them. I agree with background checks just that they fall woefully short at this time.”

After reading many of those responses, you’d almost begin to wonder how proponents of tougher background checks managed to gather more than 200,000 signatures from throughout the state.

Nevada native John L. Smith also writes a column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal that appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Contact him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.

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