Ever make a $20 million mistake? For plutocrat Mike Bloomberg, that’s pocket change, but he spent that much last year to persuade a tiny majority of the Nevada electorate to approve a law that abolished private sales of firearms, requiring all such transaction to be done through a Federal Firearms License holder along with a background check.
Alas, his law ran into big problems: Nevada can’t actually enforce the bill.
No, this isn’t some sort of “sanctuary city” situation where the locals charged with enforcing the law simply choose to ignore it. It’s legally impossible for Bloomberg’s law to be enforced.
The Silver State, you see, agreed to serve as a “point of contact” state with the federal government some years ago. This means that the background checks on new firearms purchasers mandated by the U.S. Code are run by Nevada’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), not los federales.
The DPS, in turn, runs a check against both the federal database as well as own central repository, as opposed to checks run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) run by the FBI, which would only hit the federal info. The feds, needless to say, are pleased with this situation, because it means that they don’t have to do any work, and the background check is (in theory) more thorough because it includes both state and federal information.
When Bloomberg’s minions wrote his Nevada law, however, they specifically stated that the background checks for firearms transfers between private parties would be run through the FBI. In fact, the wording of the law forbade Nevada FFLs from using the DPS system to run the check.
Why? Well, it seems that there was some concern on the part of Bloomberg’s hirelings that this would impose an extra cost to gun buyers and taxpayers, and they were concerned that the bill wouldn’t pass if voters thought it would end up costing them money. Victor Joecks, writing in the Las Vegas Review-Journal quotes Elizabeth Becker, one of Mike’s flunkies:
“The reason it was written saying that NICS was going to do it, if we did it point of contact through the state, it would have added money to every one of those background checks,” said Elizabeth Becker, spokeswoman for the Nevada Chapter of Moms Demand Action. “We did not want it to be a tax.”
Translated: Background checks wouldn’t have passed if voters knew there would be a cost.
Considering Bloomberg’s margin of victory was a mere 1%, she may have been right.
Unfortunately for Mike, the Obama Administration’s FBI told Nevada to pound salt. In a letter dated December 14, 2016, the FBI told Nevada: “[T]he recent passage of the…legislation regarding background checks for private sales cannot dictate how federal resources are applied…. [T]hese background checks are the responsibility of the state of Nevada to be conducted as any other background check for firearms, through the Nevada DPS.”
After reviewing the FBI’s letter and consulting with counsel, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announced:
[T]he FBI’s refusal to carry out the central function required by the Act effectuates an unconditional ban, at present, on all private firearm sales or transfers in Nevada. … The Nevada Supreme Court long ago adopted the doctrine that the law does not require impossible acts.
Bloomberg’s law is now stuck. It can’t be enforced, because the Fibbies won’t play ball. It can’t even be amended to be “fixed” by the legislature, because it was passed by a vote of the people, and Nevada’s constitution (art. 19 sec. 2) forbids legislators from making changes to such laws for three years. So Bloomberg got almost nothing for this act.
I say “almost” with a cautionary tone. His $20 million did get a law passed. The media certainly trumpeted it as a big win. People (and politicians, to the extent they aren’t people,) took notice. Mike’s playing a long game. Maybe in three years he’ll try to have the legislature “fix” his people’s mistakes. Maybe he’ll try another ballot initiative even sooner. Maybe he’ll even just…do nothing, count this as a win and move on to somewhere else.
The man is not dumb. He knows how to put himself in a win/win situation, he has a pile of money and he doesn’t really care what happens to the people on the ground who have to live with the consequences of the laws he wants to impose. And $20 million? A tiny drop in the bucket for a cause he desperately wants to promote.
Maybe it wasn’t a mistake…at least, not a big one. And not one he can’t recover from.
Mike also knows that half of a loaf gives one options. It’s a lesson that gun owners, sometimes prone to seeking heroic defeats rather than messy victories, should keep in mind, too.
[Hat tip: Sebastian @ Shall Not Be Questioned.]