Even though the state is now making them free, few Nevadans are seeking background checks for private gun sales and transfers, when they’re not mandated by federal law.
The Nevada Department of Public Safety said it’s conducted 25 voluntary background checks for gun sales and transfers since the beginning of December, when the state started waiving a $25 fee on the checks.
For comparison, DPS performed 102,247 total gun background checks in 2017.
Still, the voluntary background check statistics are higher than they were in the past. DPS said it did no private party checks at all from 2011 to 2013, and only did one background check in 2010, for example.
A background check must be conducted for a sale or transfer through the approximately 780 federal firearm licensees in Nevada. But private, online and gun show sales and transfers are not subject to a background check.
Question 1, approved by a narrow margin on the 2016 ballot, sought to require the FBI perform checks on more of those private sales and transfers. It exempted certain transactions, such as guns transferred between members of an immediate family or done by law enforcement.
But it hasn’t been implemented, after the FBI declined to do the checks required by the new law, and is subject to an ongoing lawsuit.
It’s unknown how many Nevada gun sales and transfers are happening in a context where a background check isn’t mandatory.
A nationwide survey published in 2017 concluded that 22 percent of gun sales and transfers take place without a background check. It found that private sales and transfers in states without universal background checks are significantly more likely to go without a check than in states where universal checks are the law.