Nevada governor signs bill to allow state to enforce Question 1—a firearms background checks measure that voters approved in 2016

On February 11, 2019, Senate Bill 143 (SB 143) was introduced into the Nevada State Legislature to amend Question 1 (2016), which was designed to require firearm transfers between unlicensed persons to go through a licensed dealer. Under Question 1, the licensed dealer would contact the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICBCS) to run a background check. According to then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R), Question 1 was never enforced because the FBI refused to participate in the background checks.

SB 143 was written to require the state, rather than the FBI, to run background checks on persons who receive a firearm from an unlicensed individual. Question 1, SB 143, and similar types of legislation are often referred to as universal background checks because under such laws transfers between unlicensed persons would join transfers between licensed persons in requiring background checks, with certain exceptions.

The Nevada State Senate voted on SB 143 on February 13, 2019. The vote was 13 to eight, with the chamber’s 13 Democrats voting to support SB 143 and eight Republicans voting to oppose the bill. The Nevada State Assembly voted on February 15, 2019, passing the bill in a vote of 28 to 13. The chamber’s Republicans, along with one Democrat, opposed SB 143, while the remaining 28 Democrats supported the bill.

In Nevada, three years must pass before a ballot initiative can be amended or repealed. Question 1 was added to state code on November 22, 2016; therefore, SB 143 included a provision stating that the bill would take effect on January 2, 2020, which is after the three-year period on November 22, 2019.

Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson (D-4), after the bill passed both legislative chambers, said, “Background checks are proven to be the best way to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands without compromising the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Sen. Ira Hansen (R-14), who voted against SB 143, stated, “All this is going to do is burden people who are good, ordinary citizens who are going to be doing transactions. No criminal in their right mind is going to go through a background check system before getting a firearm.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed SB 143 on February 15, 2019, saying, “In November 2016, the majority of Nevadans made it clear they wanted us to do more to address gun violence–but for the 829 days since, they’ve been ignored. That finally changes today.” Sisolak was elected on November 6, 2018, succeeding Brian Sandoval (R) as governor, and giving Democrats trifecta control of Nevada.