Taylor Avery // Nevada Sagebrush
Elko County legislators gather around the legislative building on Wednesday, March 20 after they passed the second amendment sanctuary county resolution

The Elko County Commissioners unanimously passed a resolution “declaring Elko County a sanctuary for the Second Amendment” on Wednesday, March 20 in Elko, Nev. at an Elko County Commissioners meeting.

The resolution, drafted by Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza, comes in response to the recent passage of Senate Bill 143. The law requires a background check to be conducted on any individual wishing to purchase a gun from a private seller, closing the “gun show loophole.”

The resolution states, “Be it further resolved that this Board affirms its support of the duly elected Elko County Sheriff in the exercise of his sound discretion to not enforce any unconstitutional firearms laws against any citizen…that this Board will not authorize or appropriate any funds or resources for the purpose of enforcing law that unlawfully infringes on the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”

The meeting was attended by nearly 200 people, according to the Elko Daily Free Press.

“This is a strong message to our state legislature and governor. Elko County does not support the gun control law SB 143.” said Narvaiza in a speech at the beginning of the meeting. “This law only affects law abiding citizens and will do nothing to take guns out of the hands of criminals.”

Several of the county commissioners made public comments after the sheriff’s speech, as did two state assemblymen and 12 citizens of Elko County, including former County Commissioner Warren Russell and former Elko County Sheriff Neil Harris.

Many of the statements brought the purpose of the background checks into question.

“I think the background check is a lie,” said Elko County Commissioner Rex Steninger.  “They don’t care about a background. Any sensible person doesn’t want a gun in a crazy person’s hand. I think most of us would willingly submit to a background check if that’s what they really wanted. I think what they really want is to know who owns what gun. Registration is the first step to confiscation.”

His concern was echoed by some of the other commenters, including state Assemblyman Jim Wheeler.

“This is the first step, the camel’s nose under the tent, to gun registration and then gun confiscation because they can’t confiscate them unless they know where they’re at,”  said Wheeler. “This is my opinion, but this is the first thing in that.”

Rusty Staples, a citizen of Elko County, echoed Wheeler and Steninger’s sentiment about the law.

“I think that’s their way of disarming us. And they don’t know who’s armed until we ultimately have to register our firearms.” Staples said. “Not only is it trying to take away our firearms, slowly but surely, but it’s also a huge money-maker.”

Elko County District Attorney Tyler Ingram confirmed the legality of the resolution.

“In my mind, what the county commissioner did today, is they never once said, ‘Governor, we’re not going to enforce the bill you signed into law.’ They never said that. What they said is they’re not going to enforce unconstitutional laws. That was their position. And that’s the position of the county now that they’ve adopted that.”

Elko County isn’t the first county in Nevada to pass a “Second Amendment sanctuary county” resolution.

According to the Nevada Appeal, Douglas and Nye counties passed similar resolutions earlier in March, followed by Lyon County on March 14 and Elko County on March 20.

Narvaiza said that White Pine, Eureka, and Esmeralda counties would follow in the passage of similar resolutions.

“I don’t know the solution,” said Staples. “But nobody knows the solution. That’s why everyone is grasping for straws, trying to figure out what we can do to stop this from happening. Taking away the guns from law-abiding citizens doesn’t do any good other than make us weaker.”


Taylor Avery can be reached at oali@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.