Court dismisses Nevada background check lawsuit against Sandoval, Laxalt

A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit claiming that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt did not do enough to enforce a law to expand background checks on gun sales.

Known as Question 1, the Background Check Act was approved by voters in 2016 but never implemented because Laxalt determined that the law requiring FBI checks could not be enforced.

“The court’s 22-page decision reaffirms what my office has been saying all along — that the Act ‘is unenforceable as written,’” Laxalt said in a statement. “This is not because of anything that I or other Nevada officials have failed to do; in the words of the Court, we have ‘undertaken a real and substantial effort to implement the law.’ Rather, it is a result of Question 1’s flawed drafting.”

Question 1, which passed by less than 1 percentage point, requires background checks on private-party gun transfers, similar to sales made when someone buys a gun through a federally licensed dealer.

But unlike with retail sales, the initiative states that dealers conducting background checks for private transfers use the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The FBI said it would not conduct the background checks because a state cannot enforce how federal resources are used, among other reasons.

Sandoval and Laxalt were sued by Nevada residents Dale Zusi, Vicki Delatorre and Sydney Gordon in Clark County District Court soon after the Route 91 Harvest Festival shooting in October.

Laxalt’s office issued an opinion on Dec. 28, 2016, stating that Question 1 could not be implemented without the FBI’s cooperation. Nevada ballot measures cannot be altered for the first three years after they are approved by voters, so lawmakers could rework the law after November 2019.

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