Charles Dharapak / AP
Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 | 2 a.m.
In the wake of the Friday shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., communities across the country are looking inward to assess what provisions they have in place to prevent firearms from ending up in the wrong hands.
Nevada’s laws are fairly straightforward, with few restrictions other than those imposed by federal law. Clark County, the largest municipality in the state, has somewhat stricter regulations.
In fact, in addition to the federal guarantee of the right to own firearms, Nevada has enshrined the right to gun ownership in the state constitution.
“Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes,” Article 1, Section 11 of the Nevada Constitution reads.
All handguns, firearms with a barrel length of less than 12 inches, must be registered in Clark County. New residents have 60 days to go to a police station and register; current residents have 72 hours to register a new handgun purchase.
There is no permit required for open carry, where the weapon is fully exposed — such as with an on-the-belt hip holster.
The open-carry option isn’t all that popular.
“It’s just easier for folks not to open carry,” Metro Police Officer Jose Hernandez said. “Sure, you can carry your firearm on the sidewalk and no one will bother you, but once you start going into certain businesses, they can tell you whatever they want. It’s a private business and they decide whom they want to serve. There are a lot of places you won’t be able to get into if you carry.”
A permit is required in Nevada for people who conceal the handgun they carry.
Local law enforcement handles the concealed carry permitting process. A Nevada concealed weapon permit expires after five years.
“Nevada honors other states’ concealed weapon permits if that state’s regulations are as strict or more strict than ours,” said Pat Conmay, Nevada Department of Public Safety Division chief of records and technology.
The Nevada Supreme Court had ruled that concealed weapons permits were public records, but in 2011, the Nevada Legislature overrode that ruling when it passed a bill that made concealed weapons records confidential.
“There is concern over the sensitive nature of having a list of people who possess guns,” Conmay said. “There is a fear that government would abuse such a thing, and there are safety concerns.”
Concealed weapon permit holders argued before the Nevada Legislature in 2011 that their safety was at risk if the public could find out who had a concealed weapon permit.
Nevada, like every state, must follow federal laws regarding gun ownership, including a background check stipulated under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act. An applicant can be disqualified from purchasing a weapon for a variety of reasons, including conviction for any crime punishable by more than one year of incarceration, use of a controlled substance, being adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution, dishonorable discharge from the U.S. military and a history of domestic violence or harassment.
Once the background check comes back clean, which in many cases can be done instantaneously, the purchaser may take home the gun. In Clark County, there is a three-day “cooling-off” period for people who are purchasing their first handgun from a registered dealer.
Federal law only requires that those who are engaged in the business of dealing firearms obtain a federal license. Private individuals who sell their own gun or those who only make occasional sales are not required to conduct background checks. This is where the so-called “gun show loophole” comes into play.
In Clark County, however, if a resident sells a handgun to another county resident, the seller must go to a local police office to transfer the handgun permit, known as a “blue card.”
Nevada is one of 37 “shall issue” states, which means sheriffs are required to issue a concealed weapon permit as long as the applicant is at least 21 years old, demonstrates competence with each weapon included on the permit, has no outstanding warrants, is free of felony or weapons-related convictions, is a legal resident of the United States, has not been declared incompetent or insane and does not habitually use alcohol or a controlled substance to impair normal faculties.
Some states are known as “may issue,” and in those states, authorities have more discretion in deciding who receives a permit.
A person carrying a concealed gun also is required to have a conceal carry permit in his or her possession. Failure to do so can result in a $25 civil penalty.
Carrying a concealed weapon without obtaining a permit is a Class C felony, which can carry a one-year minimum and five-year maximum jail sentence and/or a fine of no more than $10,000.
Anyone convicted of violating any Clark County gun ordinance is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be subject to up to six months in jail or up to a $500 fine or both.
By Nevada law, firearms are banned at schools and universities — unless the gun owner obtains written permission — as well as all federal buildings, courthouses, airports and private property where it is posted that firearms are not allowed. However, firearms are allowed in state parks.
Hernandez said the confiscation of illegal firearms is a major Metro Police focus. This year, 189 firearms have been confiscated; 146 were seized last year.