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By Martha Bellisle, Reno Gazette-Journal

RENO, Nev. -- A months-long investigation found that no state or federal laws were broken when apolice sergeant sold a firearmand magazines to a 19-year-old mentally ill man in July.

The report, released Wednesday, said that neither former Reno Sgt. Laura Conklin nor the man, who was later identified as prohibited from legally owning a gun, violated the law.

When first reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal, the case reignited debates across the country on whether the law should require background checks for private party sales.

The man had responded to an ad on armslist.com and met Conklin at a downtown Reno Starbucks at 4 a.m. on July 2. After learning about the gun, the young man's mother, Jill Schaller, became distraught and contacted officials because her son has Asperger's syndrome and is periodically suicidal.

Schaller demanded that he return the gun. After an emotional scene involving Washoe County Sheriff's deputies, Conklin bought the gun back.

Schaller filed a complaint, and the Reno Police Department's Internal Affairs division investigated whether Conklin violated any policies. Chief Steve Pitts also asked the Sparks Police Department to review the case for any possible charges. The investigation was completed this week and the report made public.

"Through my investigation, I have found that according to state and federal law, Laura Conklin is not required to perform a background check on an individual wishing to obtain a firearm via private party transfer," Sparks Police Detective Tony Marconato said in his report.

No charges to be filed

Although the young man had been placed under guardianship by his parents in July 2012 because of his mental illness, "it does not appear that (he) was ever informed of the fact that this precluded him from obtaining or possessing a firearm by any court or law enforcement official, his parents or any other individual in this matter," the detective said.

Marconato said the department will not file charges against anyone involved in the incident.

Schaller, who has since moved to California, said she was not surprised at the findings, "given what I have learned about Nevada's gun laws after our experience in July."

"But I am still shocked that it's not considered a big deal by anybody in law enforcement," she said. "They don't consider it bad decision-making."

Conklin's lawyer, Thomas Viloria, said they were confident that she had not violated any laws or department policies.

"The Reno Police Department does not have any policy which precludes the sale of guns while on duty," Viloria said in an email. "In fact, the Reno Police Department website advertisements promote the purchase and sale of firearms by officers, and firearms can also be purchased and sold while at the range."

Conklin was demoted from sergeant to officer after the incident was reported by the RGJ.

Pia Carusone, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group formed by former Rep. Gabby Giffords after Giffords was shot by a mentally ill man in 2011, said, "The fact that no laws were broken is exactly the problem."

"It's wrong that this young man - someone who is prohibited from possessing a firearm - was able to go online and make arrangements to purchase a gun," Carusone said.

"This is a perfect example of why we need common sense laws that ensure these types of sales between strangers are subject to simple background checks, and that more mental health records are included in the background checks system," she said.

Marconato's report included an interview with Reno Police Sgt. Brian Dye, who was present for the gun sale at Starbucks. Dye reported that Conklin had asked him to join her for the sale because she "had a weird feeling" about some of the questions the buyer had asked in text messages and did not want to get "rolled."

Dye also helped Conklin check the man's identification and determined that he could buy the gun at 19 years old because firearms can be sold in private sales once a person is 18, the report said. A buyer must be 21 to purchase a firearm from a gun dealer.

When Schaller demanded that her son return the gun, Dye told Marconato that Conklin lamented that "she may have 'screwed' the both of them due to the way that things were evolving with the gun sale issues with (the young man)," according to the report.

Pitts did not immediately respond to a request for comment or to questions about whether Dye was also the subject of an Internal Affairs investigation for his involvement in the sale.

Marconato's report also said that during his investigation, he made sure that the young man's name was placed on a list of people who are prohibited from having guns.

A Reno Gazette-Journal investigation into the case found that when the man was placed under guardianship, the Washoe District Court was required by law to send the man's name to the Nevada Department of Public Safety to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS.

The list is used by dealers to conduct background checks during gun sales.

But when the RGJ asked the court whether the young man's name was sent, court clerk Joey Orduna Hastings discovered that a glitch in their system had caused the court to fail to send all guardianship cases to NICS.

In total, about 260 guardianship cases dating back to 2010 had been missed. They have since been added to the list.

The mistake was also discovered in Las Vegas courts and the chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court ordered a statewide review of reporting systems for guardianship cases.

Marconato said the glitch was another factor in his decision against filing charges ? the man's name was not in the database of prohibited people when Conklin sold him the gun. In addition, only federally licensed firearms dealers can check the NICS system.

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