- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Legislation to expand background checks to private gun sales and transfers passed Wednesday in the state Senate with a party-line vote, marking a step forward in a years-long push to close the loophole.

Lawmakers delivered emotional speeches on both sides of the issue one day after a Senate committee approved the measure.

Lawmakers say the legislation would be a fix to a 2016 gun background check initiative approved by voters. The measure has gone unenforced.

“A lot of us are relieved, I think we’re feeling like this is finally an issue we can put to bed,” Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, a Democrat, said after the vote. “Obviously, there will be court challenges. But we think we’re standing on solid ground.”

Atkinson expects the measure to pass in the Assembly.

Republican senators criticized the measure as flawed, saying it would negatively impact gun owners in rural Nevada, among other arguments.

Leading Democrats have said the bill would uphold Second Amendment rights while increasing public safety. Survivors of a 2017 mass shooting at a Las Vegas music festival spoke in support of the measure on Tuesday.

The vote comes as national attention shifts toward the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said Tuesday that this week is an “incredibly poignant” moment for the nation, considering the anniversary.

“And here we are in Nevada, which has also experienced a significant amount of gun violence,” she said. “And it’s such an important moment to recognize how far we’ve come as a movement.”

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