“A Reno police officer who sold a personal gun while on duty last week to a 19-year-old man might have violated state and federal laws because the young man had been committed to a mental hospital while suicidal last year, which could prohibit him from possessing a firearm,” a Reno Gazette-Journal investigation [republished by usatoday.com] reports. Might have . . . but didn’t. “Reno Police Sgt. Laura Conklin posted an ad for her gun on the website Armslist, and the man responded, according to his mother, Jill Schaller of Reno. Conklin told him she worked the night shift and said she could meet him at 4 a.m. at a Starbucks.” Granted . . .
Selling a gun at 4am seems inherently dicey. But I don’t recall any law prohibiting Americans from conducting private commercial transactions during the wee hours of the morning. And although a FFL gun dealer can’t sell a handgun to anyone under 21, there is no such restriction for private sales.
It should also be noted that Sgt. Conklin displayed more than a passing interest in both the letter and spirit of the law.
They met, she asked if he had committed any crimes, and he said “no,” according to Schaller. Conklin sold the man a Glock handgun for $950 cash and gave him a bill of sale, which was signed by both parties.
$950? I’d give up a night’s sleep for that kind of profit. Although it did include “nite sites,” a “slide extension” and three magazines.
Anyway, you know what happened next. The teen—who’d been involuntarily committed to West Hills Hospital—used the gun to kill himself. I mean, commit murder. Wait. I mean . . . nothing. He didn’t kill himself or do anything illegal with the gun that Sgt. Conklin sold to him legally.
I repeat, NOTHING HAPPENED. Except his mother got her knickers in a twist and “went public” with the sale. [Click here for her statement to the media.] Well, something did happen: the incident provided a [im]perfect opportunity for the Reno Gazette-Journal and the media wolf pack to use the incident to highlight the need for “universal background checks.”
It is illegal under state and federal law for a person to possess a firearm if he or she was “committed to any mental health facility.” It also is illegal to sell a firearm to someone who has been institutionalized.
Note the lack of the key word: “knowingly.” As in it’s illegal to knowingly sell a firearm who has been institutionalized. Sgt. Conklin didn’t know her buyer had Asperger’s Syndrome or any other mental issue. In the immortal words of Wendy’s/Walter Mondale, where’s the beef?
It is legal for a citizen to sell a gun without a background check on the buyer, though the seller could request one. Mindy McKay, an analyst with the Nevada Department of Public Safety division that handles background checks, said her agency has received few requests from private parties for them.
Had the man gone to a gun shop instead of to a private party, a check would have been mandatory. He would have filled out a form that asks if he’d been institutionalized, and a background check itself should have noted the commitment.
Yes, but he didn’t go to a gun store did he? Which means this isn’t the gun control story Mrs. Schaller and the Reno Gazette-Journal et. al are looking for, is it? And for once, I’m not reading between the lines. To wit, the R-GZ felt obliged to add this little gem:
A Senate bill passed by the Nevada Legislature during the 2013 session would have required background checks for all gun sales, including private party sales, starting Oct. 1. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the measure.
In his veto statement, Sandoval said that while he supported the “enhanced reporting requirements concerning mentally ill persons,” he said requiring background checks for private sales would constitute “an erosion of Nevadans’ Second Amendment rights.”
Sandoval spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner told the newspaper that she was working on a response from the governor on the case but did not have one by late Tuesday.
The rest of the report details Mrs. Schaller’s confrontation with her child which, thankfully, ended well. But her decision to pin the problem on public policy is patently problematic. And the media pimping for her point of view is pernicious.
Background checks are nothing more than security theater. Anyone who promotes the idea that gun control laws save lives is seriously deluded. Which, it seems, runs in the family.