By Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindels
A group supporting a newly approved Nevada ballot question to expand background checks to private party gun sales has hired an attorney and is requesting records from a variety of state agencies that have put implementation of the measure on hold.
The group, Nevadans for Background Checks, issued multiple record requests through attorney Mark Ferrario on Monday to the state Attorney General’s office, Secretary of State, Department of Public Safety, the FBI and several Nevada sheriffs who publicly opposed the ballot question, all related to specific communications between members of the agency related to the background checks ballot question.
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office issued an opinion in December blocking implementation of the ballot question, saying the FBI was unwilling to conduct the background checks and the measure’s language doesn’t give state agencies the authority to do that task.
“Because the Act requires, under criminal penalty, what is currently impossible to perform in light of the FBI’s position, citizens may not be prosecuted for their inability to comply with the Act unless and until the FBI changes its public position and agrees to conduct the background checks consistent with the Act,” the opinion said.
The requests are each tailored to specific staff members in each agency, and in general request all communications between registered lobbyists, members of the National Rifle Association and any other local, state or federal official on implementation of the ballot question or background checks in general.
The request for the attorney general’s office includes requests for communication with Laxalt’s political adviser Robert Uithoven, members of the Nevada Firearms Coalition and a handful of other gun rights activists.
A spokeswoman with the attorney general's office said they did not comment on public records requests. A representative from the secretary of state did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment.
A spokeswoman for the background check group said that state officials needed to respect the will of the voters.
“We hope this information will shed light on why our elected leaders are putting politics ahead of public safety and we intend to make sure they know they can't skirt the law -- or the will of the people,” said Jennifer Crowe, spokesperson for Nevadans for Background Checks.
Nevadans approved Ballot Question 1 by only 9,899 votes out of more than a million cast in the 2016 election. Financial backing came largely from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, a group affiliated with billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who opposed the ballot question and vetoed similar legislation in 2013, said he supports Laxalt’s position.
4:00 p.m. - This story has been updated to slightly modify the wording of the headline.