This is a response to a Las Vegas Sun article: "Why would gun control advocates see Nevada as a source of hope?" (2/10/2015)
In 2014, Washington State’s I-594 initiative on universal background checks on firearm sales and transfers, basically outlawing private gun sales, with a roughly 60/40% vote. I-594 was the brainchild of former New York City mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s many-headed gun control groups, including Every Town for Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns. A similar petition is headed for the 2016 ballot in Nevada. Why is Nevada the next big battle ground for gun control?
First, we need to look at why the initiatives are being used to push gun control. Initiatives are not subject to party-line votes in the legislature or vetoes on the governor’s desk, as Gov. Sandoval vetoed the universal background check bill in 2013. In a way, initiatives bypass the checks-and-balances system to take the matter directly to the public. Direct democracy was seen by our founding fathers as mob rule. Wisely, they instituted a representative republican form of government that we know today. Why initiatives are great tools for the voters to change things, they are subject to abuse.
If enough people go along with something, right or wrong, it becomes law. Many criticize the initiative system as being inflexible; poorly-written bills cannot be changed or deficiencies corrected.
Partisan politics is replaced with sound-byte politics. Let’s face it, people today have too much going on in their lives to truly care about a system that often changes despite their wishes or input. Americans feel disconnected from their political process and don’t spend a great deal of time educating themselves on the topics. That’s why 30 second TV spots and ‘attack ads’ are such a big deal—short snippets of information is how we get our opinion on new idea, candidates, and new laws.
Where an inflexible initiative and short blurbs about the issue go wrong is they turn the initiative into a form of mob rule. You’re either for it or against it; there is no middle ground and no mediation. If a poorly written initiative is passed, as many, many problems with Washington’s I-594 bill have been found, there is no remedy, aside from the courts, to address those issues, until the statuary period passes when the legislature may alter the law. Once the people have spoken, there can be argument with the law that they have passed, for good or for bad.
Initiatives have emerged as a favorite of gun control proponents because they bypass checks-and-balances. No congress or governor can stand in the way. All it takes is votes. And lots and lots of money.
Money is important. It takes a lot of effort to get the approximately 100,000 signatures to put a ballot on the petition. But backed by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, or in Washington’s case, the founders of Microsoft, hiring signature gatherers is no obstacle.
When the signature gathers go out, they are often paid by the signature. Forget your noble ideas of a concerned citizen rallying his fellow voter to the issue with a rousing argument. Nope. It’s often just a one-sentence question, phrased to be as unobjectionable as possible. Since it sounds reasonable, the citizen signs, usually not bothering to read the description of the initiative printed at the top of the petition page or even the full text, as must be attached too.
In the case of universal background checks here in Nevada, the spiel I received was “Hey, do you want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals?” Imagine if I said “Sure!” and signed away. Now imagine if that bill was written to say that the right to own guns would be abolished. Wouldn't that be stupid?
That’s an extreme example, but in the case of the initiative here in Nevada, it’s not far from the truth, except in the goal of the petition. Universal background checks will require that all private face-to-face gun sales to go through a licensed dealer who runs a background check through the established FBI system. Currently, it’s perfectly legal to sell your gun to someone without a background check. 150 years and it’s worked for Nevada. Essentially, private gun sales, just like you'd sell your car, would be dead.
Signature gatherers here in Nevada basically pitched the idea that no background checks were done on any gun sales or that requiring checks on private sales would magically stop gang members from selling guns to each other. An example that I heard was the Sand Hook school shooting and how “Wouldn't you want to keep guns out of the hands of people like that?” Well yes, except that murderer killed his mother in order to steal his guns. Most of the infamous mass murderers either passed a background check or they obtained their guns in a way that universal background checks wouldn't have stopped anything.
Nevadan’s should be upset that people are lying and misrepresenting facts to get signatures and ultimately votes. Misleading statistics and out-of-context statements are used to sway voters every election. Just think of any election ad you can remember. It’s all about emotion and making the other person look terrible in as short as time as possible.
With tons of money flooding in, voters can be bombarded with newspaper articles, Twitter links, TV and radio commercials, billboards even. This is the scary part. If one side has more money, they can pump out more ads that skew to their side more than the other. I’ll rephrase that again: whoever has the most money can run the most ads and reach the most people. If voters are being educated by partisan 30 second commercials, are they really informed? Doesn't the idea that hundreds of thousands of people make decisions on a TV commercial scare you?
Now I've been down in the weeds giving out a lot of background information. Nevada itself is a battleground ripe for these new tactics. We have a population that has swollen over the last twenty years, full of those who have left other states. Nevada of the 1950s onward is a mélange of Americans. Most importantly to the gun control crowd, there is about ten percent more registered Democratic voters than Republican voters, and the Democrat party is known for supporting gun control.
Gun control supporters see Nevada as an easy win. We only have two major metropolitan areas and a whole lot of tiny, rural communities. Northern Nevada is largely Republican, yet are outnumbered by Clark County, home to about 2 million, who vote mostly Democratic. Gun control supporters think they can win here and start a domino effect across the nation because they are taking advantage of Nevada’s composition.
Essentially, it’s gaming the system. Two concentrated areas of voters with the largest block predisposed to vote for you. With the millions of dollars they can easily garner from out-of-state interests and casino billionaires, the small TV and newspaper market can be dominated with adverting that supports gun control. There is no large, spread-out rural population that thinks differently which can balance the vote.
Gun control supporters are taking advantage of Nevada because they can engineer it through deceptive, but not illegal, campaign practices to become a win for them.