Why? Because it turns out that, among other paths, a number of people buying guns from individuals at Nevada gun shows bring them to California. A 2017 study found that within two weeks of gun shows in Nevada, gun violence in California near the Nevada border jumps 69%.
California has some of the toughest gun control laws in the country, including requiring a background check for just about any transfer of a firearm. Nevada does not. Private sales, for instance, can be done without a check. And gun shows are filled with private vendors who skirt federal regulations requiring a federal license to engage in the business of selling guns.
If it’s just a hobby — wink, wink, nudge, nudge — then there’s no need for the federal dealer’s license and no federal requirement for a background check. There are efforts in Congress to change that by requiring background checks for nearly all transfers, but, well, good luck with that.
Nevada voters approved a 2016 initiative tightening the background check loophole, but it never went into effect after getting caught up in bureaucratic and legal challenges hinging on whether the state could ask the FBI to do the checks. But a new bill working its way through the Nevada Legislature to fix that problem is gaining steam, and prospects are good that it will get enacted.
That will be good for California. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported that two years ago, 1,554 guns recovered by California law enforcement officials were subsequently traced back to Nevada (second only to Arizona as an outside source), though the data does not indicate how many of those guns had been purchased with a proper background check, purchased without a background check or stolen.
But there’s clearly a conduit.