Published Monday, June 3, 2013 | 12:27 p.m.
Updated Monday, June 3, 2013 | 3:14 p.m.
After an intense lobbying effort by both Nevada and national advocates, a bill to require background checks on private party gun sales was brought back from the brink of death today.
But its lifespan may still be brief.
After advocates for the bill succeeded in winning over a key lawmaker on the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Monday morning, Senate Bill 221 was narrowly approved by the Assembly in a 23-19 vote.
The bill now heads to Gov. Brian Sandoval's desk, where it faces a likely veto.
Still, the vote represented a difficult win for the Democratic majority in the Legislature, after intense political pressure from gun control advocates both within the state and a well-monied national organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
"I don't know what the governor will do," said the bill's sponsor Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, moments after the Assembly passed his bill. "It's his decision ultimately. I hope he listens to the 86 percent of Nevadans who want background checks."
Late Sunday the bill seemed headed to defeat when three Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voiced opposition to a measure they worried would create criminals out of people unaware of the new requirements. But Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, one of the skeptical Democrats, was eventually won over, saying background checks could help save victims of domestic violence.
"I'm thinking of the domestic violence victims," she said. "This could make our community safer."
The Assembly Judiciary committee then voted 7-5 to pass the measure.
In the audience — for both the committee and floor votes — was Neil Heslin, whose 6-year-old son Jesse was shot and killed in the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting last year.
"I’m not going to sit here and promise you that that is never going to happen again," Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said. "What I think I can promise you is that this law will be better than wat we have today."
But the Democrats didn't vote unanimously for the bill.
Assemblyman Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas, said he was angered by the pressure to vote for the measure.
"To feel we are being put in a box to vote on something we have convictions about ..." Carrillo said. "As a gun owner, a father, a grandfather, I know what is right. When it comes down to feeling like we are going to be threatened if we don’t vote a certain way. I hate to go this route, but I'm voting no on this just for that reason."
Carrillo and Democrats Skip Daly, Mike Sprinkle and James Ohrenschall sided with 14 Republican Assembly members to vote against the bill.
"This just isn't right," Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, said.
"This is an easy one for me," said Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, who voted against the bill.
"I just thank goodness we have a governor who will veto this bad bill," Fiore said.
And that's where Senate Bill 221 will likely face its demise. Sandoval has vowed to veto the measure, even as Mayors Against Illegal Guns ramped up its grassroots pressure campaign against the veto.
Jones said he would still consider it a victory, even if Sandoval vetos it.
"It's small steps," Jones said. "We've never had this discussion before. But we actually moved legislation to his desk."
The bill also requires courts to report mental health adjudications more quickly to the federal database used for background checks. Anticipating difficulty getting the background checks through, Jones had the mental health provisions amended into a separate bill late Sunday. Republicans on the committee tried to use that as an argument against SB 221.