Voters in Maine and Nevada are poised to approve background checks for almost all private sales and transfers of guns. The ballot initiatives seek to close a loophole in federal law that exempts private sales such as those online or at gun shows from comprehensive checks, the Washington Post reports. In California and Washington state, which have closed the loophole, voters are being asked to take gun control a step further. Washington will vote on whether to allow family members to seek a temporary order barring a person from having a gun if the person is determined to pose a risk to themselves or others. In California, residents will be asked whether they want to ban the sale of high-capacity magazines and require background checks for ammunition purchases. The four measures are part of a state-focused approach that gun-control advocates have adopted after repeated losses in Congress.
In Maine and Nevada, legislatures passed background check bills that were vetoed by Republican governors. California and Washington have already shown strong popular support for gun-safety rules. “In the wake of Congress’s failure . . . we decided to take a state-by-state approach,” said John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. “In many ways we were borrowing a page from the marriage equality movement.” Everytown has poured $13.3 million into Nevada, $4.6 million into Maine, and $550,000 into Washington; it has not spend money on the California initiative. The National Rifle Association has spent millions to oppose the initiatives, while also spending in battleground states to help GOP Senate candidates and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. Proponents of the measures argue that universal background checks are needed to keep guns out of the hands of people who might fail a check but could still obtain a gun through the loophole. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia require background checks for some types of firearm purchases.