By initiative and legislation, California voters and lawmakers have regulated the sale of bullets, restricted military-style assault weapons, limited the size of magazines, and much more.
But the most far-reaching measure in recent years took place on the other side of Sierra. By a 9,901-vote margin – yes, voting matters – Nevada wisely approved full background checks for gun buyers, Measure 1.
For that, Californians owe a thank-you to Silver State voters, and people such as retired Las Vegas elementary school principal Sue Brooks. Brooks helped organize support for Measure 1, and saw it pass before her death on Sunday.
As described by the Las Vegas Sun, Brooks was among the first to respond to Shannon Watts, who reacted to the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School by starting what became Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The Sun quotes Watts as saying Brooks was personally responsible for persuading at least 9,901 people to support Measure 1.
Billionaire and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the group he founded, Everytown for Gun Safety, provided the bulk of the $19.7 million in support of the measure.
The National Rifle Association funded the opposition with $6.5 million. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Adam Laxalt, both Republicans, opposed the initiative, as did the Nevada Republican Party.
A year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown stirred up Sandoval and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey when he pointed out, accurately, that their states’ lenient gun laws created “a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”
“California has some of the toughest gun control laws of any state. And Nevada and Arizona are wide open,” Brown noted.
Sandoval’s spokeswoman denounced Brown’s remarks as “irresponsible.” They weren’t. Ducey called on Brown to “retract his incredibly thoughtless and ill-advised comments.” Brown didn’t. His remarks, in fact, were spot-on.
To understand the significance of Nevada’s Measure 1, take a look at the federal indictment unveiled earlier this month in Fresno aimed at the Strother Boys street gang. Federal, state and local law enforcement arrested three dozen people on federal and state charges.
Although full details have yet to become public, part of the case involves illegal gun sales to people who had criminal records and so were not legally entitled to own guns.
And at least some of the weapons originated in Arizona, a state with some of the loosest gun laws in the nation, and Nevada, which, until 558,586 voters took the responsible path, did not require universal background checks for private gun sales. The Fresno gang members were able to freely buy guns in those states, and sell them to other criminals who then used them in other crimes.
Criminals will find ways to get guns. But states should not make it easy. They should insist that all sellers, including individuals who set up tables at gun shows or transfer weapons over the internet, take the most basic of steps by checking to make sure buyers are not felons, domestic abusers or people with a history of mental illness.
Thanks to Nevada voters, an elementary school principal and a billionaire’s millions, the Silver State has taken that step. Now it’s Arizona’s turn to take that step, for the safety of its citizens and ours.