Most of the sheriff’s in Nevada have not actually come out and said they will not be enforcing the private gun sales ban (universal background checks) or “red flag” laws. If we take a look at what they have actually done and said, the results are surprising. Villainized Sheriff Allen of Humboldt County argues a reasonable position and joined a suit against AB 291. Many have hinted at non-enforcement and expressed their opposition to the law. Notable staunch supporters are the Clark and Washoe County sheriffs.
None of the statements of non-enforcement or opposition mean that sheriffs, local police departments, or state agencies will not enforce the laws anyway. Judges and district attorneys also have to be considered, but almost universally will not comment on such matters publicly.
The Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is more good feelings and words than actions. Only time will tell how law enforcement will respond to the laws. Here are words from the sheriffs directly.
Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong: “"The challenge is this; when I as a friend sell a gun to a friend and if there is no background check done, that’s a crime according to this bill; however, how is law enforcement supposed to know that a crime has been committed because something wasn’t done, how do we even know that the sale took place?" [source]
Churchill County Sheriff Richard Hickox: (on red flags) "Please rest assured, we the Churchill County Sheriff’s Office, under my guidance, will not be coming to collect your firearms unless so ordered by the courts after you have received your due process." [source]
Clark County (LVMPD) Sheriff Joe Lombardo: “The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, headed by elected Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, said in a statement [to the LVRJ] it is obliged ‘to uphold and enforce’ city, county and state laws.” [source]
Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley: “This law is not unconstitutional. I think this is going to be difficult for me to enforce ... but for me to say that I'm not going to enforce the law is incorrect and I don't think that I have that authority.” [source]
“I do not plan on putting any effort or resources into enforcing it, primarily because it’s unenforceable.” [source]
Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza: Elko County Resolution will not enforce including the sheriff.
“We’re going to follow the Constitution, we’re going to follow all the state laws, and gun laws; we’re just not supporting this bill." [Read the whole thing]
On red flags: “Based on an allegation without any due process we as law enforcement can go to your residence and take your firearms. This bill is a bad bill and this bill will get people hurt on both sides.” [source]
“For us to get your guns, there has to be due process. It’s the only law on the books where you can lose your firearms without doing anything wrong, just based on an allegation. That to me is very unconstitutional.” [source]
Esmeralda County Sheriff Kenneth Elgan: “I, Sheriff Kenneth N. Elgan, am opposed to any legislation which would infringe upon a citizens God-given right to keep and bear arms pursuant to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. I will not participate in the enforcement of this new law and I will certainly not stand silent while the citizens of Esmeralda County are turned into criminals due to unconstitutional actions of the Nevada Legislature or Governor Sisolak.” [source]
Eureka County Sheriff Jesse Watts: "It is the position of this Sheriff, that I refuse to participate, or stand idly by, while my citizens are turned into criminals due to the unconstitutional actions of misguided politicians." [source]
“‘Nowhere in my letter does it say I am not enforcing the law,’ Watts said Tuesday.” [source]
On red flags: Joined the law suit (Facebook page)
Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Allen: unclear on background checks. Opposed Question 1.
On red flags: Allen has been the center of controversy for saying: “I do oppose this law. However, it’s my not my job to oppose a law; my job is to enforce the law.” [source]
“The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has no interest in taking firearms from law abiding citizens who are exercising their second amendment (sic) right to bear arms in our country."
"Sheriff Allen said, 'These laws, which we oppose, should not have the potential to impact citizens under ordinary circumstances. … The Red Flag law only pertains to someone wanting to commit severe violent acts involving the risk of death to innocent people or a serious mentally ill individual threatening or wanting to do harm [to] themselves or others.' He said that in his 35 years in law enforcement, he can think of only two instances where the 'Red Flag' could have been applied."
"He said internally the Sheriff’s Office will have policies in place to administratively review any potential application for an order from someone making the request. After the Sheriff’s Office reviews, he said, the Office will have the district attorney’s office review the application before it is taken to a judge. The sheriff said the law specifically says that all other means must be exhausted before it comes to carrying out a judicial order. He also said law specifically states that if taking action to enforce the order is too dangerous to the deputies, the community or the individual, the order does not have to be served."
Read the whole thing. The sheriff makes some excellent good points and explains in detail what he will do to protect citizens from abuse and his opposition to the law in general.
Claimed to be first sheriff to join NevadaCAN’s red flag lawsuit. [source]
Despite the hullaballoo, he seems to be the most reasonable and open so far. His interpretation of the law seems to imply that before seizure the requirement for the constitutional standard of probable cause would have to be met.
Lander County Sheriff Ron Unger: “It's coming down the pike to where not only on our rights to own and bear arms but it's on the Fourth Amendment, your right to illegal search and seizures
that's coming down.”
"There's a lot of loopholes in that SB 143. There's a lot of stuff that -- that they're saying law enforcement will do this and law enforcement will do that. A lot of it is a burden of proof that falls in here. I can sell you a gun right now today and -- and we're not going to do a
background check. And you could take that gun and go to Reno and do whatever you did. How are they going to prove that I own that gun? There is no gun registration." [source]
On red flags: “They're trying to make it to where law enforcement can go into somebody's house without due process of law and seize and confiscate their guns. And what that essentially does is put a target on every single one of our deputies because somebody knows they're coming over there, they're going to be ready for them and they're not going to give them the guns. … We -- we need to stop all of this. We need to take a stance and say we're not in it. And that's what I'm here to do. [source]
Lyon County Sheriff Frank Hunewill: “In terms of being a Second Amendment county, yes, we would support that. What you’re doing is sending a message that we’re not going to go out and violate someone’s Second Amendment rights as a sheriff’s office.” [source]
Mineral County Sheriff Randy Adams: "While we can’t pick and choose which laws we can enforce, this law [SB143] is poorly written. I don’t agree with the law as it is poorly written, unenforceable as written and therefore my department won’t be wasting our already limited resources enforcing this.” [source]
Nye County Sheriff Sharon Werhly: "Even if I were inclined to participate, the infrastructure is not in place to transfer firearms in this manner...I will not participate in the enforcement of this new law and certainly won't stand silent." [source]
Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen: “I am in opposition of this law as your elected representative, even though I am additionally opposed to it personally…I will not use the authority granted to me by the State of Nevada and the residents of Pershing County to infringe on the People’s right to Keep and Bear Arms, absent the actual commission of a violent Felony crime or valid court order.” [source]
Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam: “I believe in an individual’s right to bear arms, and I support a citizen’s right to legally possess firearms. However, we also have a responsibility to protect the public from criminal misuse of firearms.” [source]
White Pine County Sheriff Scott Henriod: “I believe that the new law is unenforceable. I’m sure there are many residents of the State of Nevada who own guns that have changed hands several times. There are no records of these transactions. In any criminal case, the burden to prove that a crime has been committed lies with the state. Without records of ownership, the state will not be able to prove the case that a firearm has transferred hands. This leaves law enforcement with a law that they cannot enforce." [source]
Don’t forget that in addition to sheriffs, there are police departments too. Only Clark and Carson City have consolidated departments, and Clark has four city police departments and an ungodly number of other law enforcement agencies.
The “Nevada Sheriffs’ Letter to Constituents,” signed by all 17 sheriffs, means nothing. It is a perfunctory statement of support for existing rights. It does not promise to oppose gun control or any specific resolution.
These laws put law enforcement in a bad spot. On one hand, the laws are tools to stop the next mass shooting or put the ghetto gun dealer in jail. Not entirely by accident, they put average citizens under the spotlight. You and I can’t buy guns privately anymore to avoid paperwork that might be used by a future tyrannical government to confiscate our guns because some douchebag bought a handgun privately and killed his ex-wife with it. We have to worry about crazy girlfriends or Antifa relatives (or Internet randos) red-flagging us out of revenge.
Sheriffs can’t say, “We’re not going to enforce this on just criminals, you know felons, that creepy kid everyone says is going to shoot up the school, and some no-good scumbag that we’re tacking an extra charge on to. You law-abiding people who simply want no paperwork in case of future gun registration, you’re good.” They can’t say that because it would be introduced in a trial as some sort of bias against said felon, creep, or scumbag as evidence law enforcement is biased.
Sheriffs also don’t want to paint themselves into a corner where they might have to legitimately exercise a “red flag” against an unquestionable nutcase or prosecute Ronny Ruinitall because he keeps selling guns to gang members. The moral stance of a sheriff, regardless of who the suspect is, is to not charge the violation of an unconstitutional law.
If you are, oh say a drug dealer, who gets busted, whether the cops support the laws or not, they will likely charge the suspect with the violation simply to make it harder for them to hit the street again. I see it all the time back home in California. But a sheriff can’t publicly talk about a double standard, but double standards do exist and cops exercise them everyday, for good or bad.
Ultimately, they’re politicians who are out to protect their skin, avoid lawsuits, avoid jeopardizing prosecutions, and protect their deputies from suits and potential criminal charges from the Attorney General. Don’t count on a politician of any kind or stripe to come out firmly on an issue.
Stay tuned! On Monday we look at the truth of counties’ Second Amendment Sanctuary Laws