Nevada GOP governor vetoes gun background checks bill

Nevada will not become the latest state to enact new gun-control regulations, after Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval on Thursday vetoed the Democratic state legislature's universal background checks bill.

The legislation would have required a background check on any private gun sale. Sandoval said he approves of the bill's aim and some of its provisions, but that it would infringe on Nevadans' 2nd Amendment rights.

"Senate Bill 221, while laudable in its efforts to strengthen reporting requirements concerning mentally ill persons, imposes unreasonable burdens and harsh penalties upon law-abiding Nevadans, while doing little to prevent criminals from unlawfully obtaining firearms," Sandoval said in his veto statement.

He pointed in particular to two examples: selling a gun to a family member and selling a gun to someone with a license to carry a concealed weapon. In both cases, Sandoval said it was unreasonable for the transaction to require the supervision of a federally licensed firearm dealer.

Sandoval also argued that the bill would create problems for gun dealers, by reducing the burden of proof for illegal weapon sales. Current law says, in order to be convicted of an illegal sale, a dealer must have "actual knowledge" that the purchaser isn't legally allowed to buy a gun, while the new law says the dealer can be found guilty if there was a "reasonable cause to believe" that the purchaser didn't qualify.

Democrats quickly jumped on Sandoval, accusing him of being out of touch with the will of Nevadans.

“I am deeply disappointed in Gov. Sandoval’s decision to veto this bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who had spoken with Sandoval about the bill. "People convicted of a felony or suffering from a severe mental illness should be prevented from buying a gun with a simple background check. Ninety percent of Nevadans agree and it is too bad this bill has been vetoed.”

Mark Kelly, the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) who founded a new gun control group with her, promised Sandoval would pay a price for his actions.

"Nevadans won't forget and neither will we," Kelly said.

Colorado, Connecticut and New York have passed new gun regulations in the aftermath of the shootings in Newtown, Conn., in January.

Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.

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