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Federal suit filed over Nevada gun ban in state parks

Valley

Joe Elbert

Loaded guns are banned in Nevada state parks, including Valley of Fire State Park in eastern Clark County. A Colorado group has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Nevada law.

Updated Friday, July 16, 2010 | 3:24 p.m.

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A Colorado legal foundation has filed a federal lawsuit challenging Nevada's law that generally bans the possession of loaded guns in state parks.

Attorneys for the Mountain States Legal Foundation in Denver, along with Elko attorney Robert Salyer, filed suit in U.S. District Court for Nevada this week in behalf of Al Baker, an Idaho outdoorsman who said he was threatened with six months' jail time if he fired his gun in Nevada state parks -- even in self defense.

"The Supreme Court’s ruling that the Second Amendment applies to the states via the 14th Amendment makes it clear that the Nevada law is unconstitutional and must be stricken," William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, said in a statement announcing the lawsuit.

A spokesman for the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, parent agency of the Nevada Division of State Parks, said the agency hadn't seen the suit and had no immediate comment on it. State parks in the Las Vegas area are the Valley of Fire, Spring Mountain Ranch and Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort.

The Mountain States Legal Foundations says it is a nonprofit, public interest law firm dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government and economic freedom.

In announcing the Idaho lawsuit, Pendley cited the U.S. Supreme Court's June 28 ruling striking down a Chicago ordinance banning handgun ownership and finding "the right to keep and bear arms [is] among those fundamental rights necessary to our system of ordered liberty."

In the new Nevada case, Baker, a University of Idaho law student who lives in Boise, said he is a National Rifle Association-certified home firearms safety and basic pistol instructor who is licensed in Idaho, Utah, and Oregon to carry a concealed handgun.

Baker said he is an avid outdoorsmen and camps in Northern Nevada in locations including Wild Horse State Recreation Area 67 miles north of Elko. Baker said he inquired about keeping a loaded firearm in his tent for self-defense purposes while visiting the recreation area.

"Mr. Baker has been advised that, if he brings a firearm for personal protection, he will be in violation of state law," the legal foundation said.

"Nevada’s ban on firearms prohibits Mr. Baker from possessing a functional firearm when he is camping in Nevada state parks. He must leave his firearm in his car, unloaded at all times, even in the case of a self-defense emergency. If he were to discharge a firearm in self-defense, that action would also violate the ban. The penalty for violating the Nevada firearms ban is six months imprisonment, or a $1,000 fine, or both," the foundation said.

Nevada code bans possession of a firearm in state parks unless the firearm is unloaded and inside a vehicle, or the gun owner is carrying the weapon in conformity with a state concealed weapons permit, or the gun owner is hunting in an authorized area.

"By banning all functional firearms, defendants currently maintain and actively enforce a set of laws, customs, practices, and policies under color of state law that deprive Mr. Baker of the right to keep and bear arms for self-defense in violation of the Second and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution," charges the lawsuit, which seeks an injunction barring enforcement of the code at issue.

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