Sheriff, district attorney oppose background check ballot measure

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly and District Attorney Angela Bello said they oppose ballot Question 1 that would require a background check for private gun sales in Nevada.

Wehrly and Bello join the majority of Nevada officials who oppose the initiative backed by former New York mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

“I think that it’s invasive as far as people who are law-abiding citizens, and it’s going to cost law-abiding citizens a lot of money,” Wehrly said.

Wehrly also said the question should be “a big thing for gun renters” who would be committing a crime under the proposed initiative.

“Anybody that votes for Question 1 and lives in Nye County is out of their mind because basically what it says is that you can loan someone a firearm on a sanctioned firing range. I don’t know of any place in Nye County where there is a sanctioned firing range. And I’m not even sure that Front Sight (Firearms Training Institute) is sanctioned.”

Under the proposal, a firearm could be borrowed to shoot at an established shooting range. The same activity away from an established range would be illegal.

A background check is currently not required for purchasing a gun from an unlicensed seller in Nevada. Under the proposed initiative, an unlicensed person who wants to sell or transfer a gun would have to do the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who would do a background check on the buyer or transferee.

“So that means that we couldn’t just spontaneously go shoot,” Wehrly said.

While the proponents of the initiative say that it will make it harder for criminals to obtain guns, the opponents argue that it will punish law-abiding gun owners and have no effect on criminals.

“Criminals don’t use legal methods,” Wehrly said. “Hardcore criminals actually have their own networking process where they bring firearms from other states or other counties, and they trade them and they sell them and they give them to people.”

Nye County District Attorney Angela Bello said she opposes the passage of background checks for gun sales from a “professional perspective.”

“My personal position on Question 1 really doesn’t matter,” Bello said. “However, when a law is written in a manner that makes its intended scope unclear, that makes my professional responsibilities more difficult. I’m afraid Question 1 will be just such a law for a number of reasons.”

As an example, she talked about the lack of the definition of the term “transfer” and use of the phrase “established shooting range.”

Wehrly said she was “mid-ground” on Question 2 that would allow Nevada residents who are 21 and older to possess one ounce of marijuana or less for recreational use.

“I can’t say I’m really keen on it, but that’s totally up to the voters,” Wehrly said.

“I’m not sure that I’m going to vote for that, not at all, but I’m going to enforce whatever laws the state has,” Wehrly said.

She said legalization of marijuana is going to add “a lot more problems” to Nye County.

“And we have enough (problems) with alcohol,” Wehrly said.

Bello said she also opposes the passage of recreational marijuana.

“From a prosecutorial perspective, obviously the workload of my office will be greatly reduced if we no longer prosecute illegal possession of marijuana. But in its place will come charges for selling marijuana to underage children,” Bello said.

She said she anticipates child endangerment and charges of similar types to increase, in addition to cases of driving under the influence.

“This is the trade-off I just can’t get behind,” Bello said.

“I look at what is done for other states, and I can’t see where they are much better off. Their jails are full,” Wehrly added.

Several medical marijuana businesses in Pahrump said that they are awaiting legalization of marijuana to expand their operations.

“People think that it’s going to be an opportunity for entrepreneurs in this area,” Wehrly said.

Contact reporter Daria Sokolova at dsokolova@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @dariasokolova77

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