Domestic violence activists restate support of expanded firearm background checks

Nevada advocates against domestic violence on Wednesday reaffirmed their support for Question 1, a ballot initiative proposing to expand firearm background checks to private-party sales and transfers.

Survivors and activists gathered at the Henderson women’s shelter Safe House to discuss the ballot measure, which Nevada voters will decide in November, and the prevalence of domestic violence in the state.

For the period from 2010 to 2014, Nevada ranked fifth nationally in the number of women killed by an intimate partner, according to a study released this year by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence. During the years covered by the study, there were 6.6 domestic violence gun homicides for every million Nevada women, compared with four nationally.

Rosa Parra came to Safe House after her husband attacked her with a machete, she said.

“As soon as we got married, everything changed,” Parra said. “He told me ‘I’m going to kill you,’ and I believed him.”

By the time she left her husband, he had beaten her, choked her, tried to poison her twice and firebombed her apartment, she said.

“I believe that if I would’ve stayed, he would’ve killed me,” she said. “All he needed was a gun. He tried everything else.”

Nevada law prevents people convicted of domestic violence from passing a firearm background check. Domestic violence advocates believe expanding the background system would save lives.

Nevadans for Background Checks, the group campaigning to pass Question 1, has said the number of women fatally shot by an intimate partner dropped by 46 percent in states that passed universal background check measures.

“We can’t prevent every tragedy,” Safe House Executive Director Julie Proctor said, “(but) passing Question 1 will save lives.”

Gun-rights advocates maintain that Question 1 would only criminalize the normal behaviors by law-abiding gun owners and would not stop criminals from obtaining guns. The National Rifle Association on Tuesday opened its Las Vegas office for the Nevadans for Freedom campaign to fight the ballot measure.

Proctor said if the proposed law leads to even a few lives being saved, it would be worth it.

Contact Wesley Juhl at Find @WesJuhl on Twitter.