The topic being discussed on the chosen KNPR’s State of Nevada program concerns the upcoming voting on the gun control measure. In the fall of 2016, Nevada citizens will vote in favor or against the measure that would require unlicensed gun owners to transfer or sell guns only through the licensed dealers. The dealers would have to run a background check on the buyer or the person who is transferring the weapon. The proposed gun control measure has given rise to opposition from some of Nevada officials. Governor Brian Sandoval, in particular, did not approve the idea. He said it would not help to stop criminals from getting guns. Some of the officials preferred to stay neutral. Joe Lombardo, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and sheriff of Clark County – the largest metropolitan area in the state, which has faced a dramatic rise in the number of crimes – said it was for people to decide whether to implement background checks or not.
“Will the new gun control measure diminish the rates of crime in Nevada?” was the main question of the program, which Joe Schoenmann addressed to his guests – Justin Jones and Ryan Hamilton.
Justin Jones, an attorney and former state senator, took a stand in favor of a universal background check in 2013. Today, he is convinced that if the majority of citizens voted for and the government enforced the proposed gun control measure, it “would close a loophole”. The important note is that all gun purchases will require background checks with a few exceptions of self-defense and family hunting goals. The law will also apply to gun shows, which Las Vegas is very famous for. Justin Jones emphasized the importance of the measure for the state of Nevada, as it has one of the highest rates of gun suicide and domestic violence in the U. S. He provided evidence to support his claim by pointing the significant reduction in gun crime in the states that had already implemented the universal background checks. Justin Jones referred to the studies showing that 18 states that had closed the loophole reported 48 % fewer police shot with guns, 46 % fewer women shot by inmate partners and 48 % fewer gun suicides.
The second participant in State of Nevada’s discussion, Ryan Hamilton, holds an opposite opinion and does not want Nevada to approve the criminal backgrounds checks. Hamilton is a deputy campaign director for NRA-Nevadans for Freedom and claims that most of the NRA members oppose the law as well. He highlights the fact that going through licensed dealers is not only about gun sales, but about every time a person physically relinquishes possession of the firearm. As Ryan stated that basically, the measure criminalized any action when the gun was handed over outside of the background check process and was not covered by very narrow exceptions. Therefore, if someone wants to transfer his gun to somebody else, he should do it through a licensed dealer and have a background check, and when another person wants to give it back, he has to undergo the same process. According to Ryan, it is “too much a hassle for somebody to go through”.
As to the results of the studies mentioned by Justin Jones, Hamilton provided evidence that suggested otherwise. In 1997, a study undertaken by the Department of Justice discovered that nearly 8 out of every 10 guns used in a crime came from an illegal source. The 2016 summer’s study at the University of Pittsburgh found that in nearly 80 percent of the commissions of crime, a firearm did not come from the source that would have been stopped by the background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agrees with the fact that straw purchasing is a number one way the criminals are getting guns. Ryan Hamilton is convinced that if a criminal wants to get his hands on a gun, he will defeat the background check, and the discussed control measure will not stop them.
Program quests’ opinions diverged on the question whether law enforcement officers supported the new gun control measure. Contrary to Hamilton, Justin Jones claimed that the Fraternal Order of Police and the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers were one hundred percent in favor of the initiative with strong support from Steven Wolfson, the Clark County’s district attorney.
Jordon Ross, a Laughlin constable, joined the discussion in the middle of the program giving his opinion on the upcoming voting and possible consequences of the new law. Along with Ryan Hamilton, Jordon said he did not believe that background checks would stop criminals from possessing guns and committing crimes. However, he expressed the view that the United States already had too many criminal laws and many people were arrested for things that “should not be illegal in the first place”. Justin Jones answered by indicating that, no matter how many laws already existed, what really mattered was supporting one right law. Again, Ryan Hamilton contradicted, saying that a good law would not keep average people from getting guns and using them for self-defense. At the end of the program, he made a very important statement that there is a background check system in place, but the states did not regularly transmit information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, so it was better to focus on mending the existent structure instead of enforcing a new law.