Like many kids raised in rural Nevada, as soon as my brother and I were old enough my father taught us how to handle firearms. We got our junior memberships to the NRA and passed the NRA Hunter Safety Program as soon as we were old enough, a rite of passage as common as getting a driver’s license. Growing up in Hawthorne, everybody I knew owned guns and I could hardly wait to go plinking with a .22 when the time came. Guns represented a common thread among us, we marked the beginning and end of duck season and deer season just as we waited for the start of football or basketball, and respect for the Second Amendment was woven into the fabric of my childhood.
Following in my father’s footsteps, I enlisted in the Navy at 18 and served as a Hospital Corpsman. Eventually, I became the commander of the Naval Medical Center San Diego where we treated Marines and Sailors suffering from combat wounds from Iraq and Afghanistan. Young warriors with severe gunshot wounds was something you dealt with daily in a military hospital.
After the military, I continued my health care career in trauma centers here at home. It is one thing to see brave young men and women, fresh off the battlefield, with devastating wounds – it is awful but it is also to be expected. To see people, including children, with the same type of gunshot injuries coming through the ER doors in my community is unacceptable. What we see most days in the trauma center looks too much like what I saw in places like Fallujah or TQ. This senseless killing happens every day in part, because it is far too easy for dangerous people to get guns.
In Nevada, we hold sacred our Second Amendment rights. It is part of who we are. But with rights come responsibilities to do what we can to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Background checks are a reasonable approach to helping address gun violence without impacting the ability of law-abiding Nevadans to obtain and use firearms.
Unfortunately, felons, domestic abusers, and even individuals deemed by Federal authorities as too much as of a risk to fly on an airliner, are exploiting a loophole in the law to buy guns online and at gun shows without a background check. This November Nevadans have the opportunity to close the loophole by voting yes on Question 1, The Background Check Initiative, which requires criminal background checks on all gun sales with reasonable exceptions for family, hunting and self-defense. This common-sense approach respects our traditions of passing guns from father to son and defending our families and homes while at the same time, doing more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
Research shows background checks work. In Nevada during a three-year period, background checks blocked nearly 5,400 felons, criminals and domestic abusers from buying guns from licensed gun dealers. No one law will prevent every crime or stop every tragedy but requiring background checks for private sales online and at gun shows is a sensible approach to a problem that left unchecked, will have grave consequences. I urge you to learn the facts about background checks and vote yes on Question 1.
Brian Brannman grew up in Hawthorne, NV, and served 30 years in the United States Navy, retiring as a Rear Admiral. He is currently a health care executive.