Las Vegas Sun

May 26, 2024

When target shooters and hikers collide

man shooting in desert

What to do if you encounter gunfire

Tips from GC Gates of Nevada Carry:

• Do not engage with people who are shooting illegally. Retreat to a safe location and call Metro Police.

• If you find yourself being shot at (unintentionally), hit the ground and find something solid to stay behind, then move away from the gunfire.

• Avoid crossing the path of shots being fired by at least a mile, preferably two, keeping terrain between you and them.

• Hikers and bikers should avoid common shooting areas.

• Pay close attention to shooters in the area, especially if you’re wearing headphones or riding an off-road vehicle.

• Talk to shooters. Let them know you’re nearby so everyone stays safe.

Hiker Billy Taylor hits the trails around Las Vegas about three times a week — more when the weather is nice. Almost every time, he encounters people shooting guns.

As Southern Nevada grows and suburbia spreads farther into the desert, Taylor has seen what he describes as a tenfold increase in open-desert shooters (Metro Police does not measure such incidents and cannot comment on the change).

“It has gotten out of control,” Taylor said. “They shoot indiscriminately and don’t pay attention to the activities around them like hikers, mountain bikers and four-wheelers. They don’t stop shooting even when they know others are near. They will often get aggressive when you make them aware of your presence. ... Something needs to be done about this.”

Almost 50 million acres of public land exists in Nevada. It’s designated mixed-use, which means it’s open to target shooting and hunting, as well as hiking, biking, cattle grazing and more. Boundaries and rules exist to keep people safe, but there are no designated shooting areas. And with overlapping jurisdiction between the Bureau of Land Management, Metro Police, the Forest Service and Clark County, it’s easy to get confused.

GC Gates runs Nevada Carry, an online resource for gun-related news and information. He makes maps and ordinances available on his website He too is frustrated by the bad behavior of a certain type of shooter.

“The ones sweeping muzzles, shooting when people are down range, littering, shooting appliances, and those with fingers on the trigger at the wrong time are in the ‘novice’ group,” he said. “Most of them don’t know better and lack the drive to learn better habits.”

Gates says the local gun community has discussed possible solutions, such as an info booth, additional signage and volunteer trash collection.

“Frankly, I think BLM, Metro and the Forest Service ought to blitz these areas with a zero-tolerance, total enforcement period,” he said. “Coupled with an educational program, word-of-mouth would likely make this effective. Even one dedicated cop could do wonders.”

Those groups are working to get the word out.

“The Southern Nevada District of BLM has been partnering with Clark County, Metro, Nevada Highway Patrol and local recreation groups to provide outreach and educate recreational shooters on the rules at some of the popular shooting areas, and we plan to continue this outreach in the future,” BLM spokesperson John Asselin said.

But even the most informed can find the information hard to parse out. As new construction changes the landscape, areas that were once remote enough to shoot or hunt in safely become illegal. Boundary maps become outdated faster than they can be printed.

Metro spokesman Jay Rivera recommends bypassing the guessing game by going to a designated space to shoot, such as the Clark County Shooting Complex.

“It’s a great place for shooting, and you can do it safely,” Rivera said.

Click to enlarge photo

This is a general boundary map. Please be aware that lines for mixed-use lands are constantly changing.

Mile markers and shooting boundaries

Clark County Shooting Complex

• Where: 11357 N. Decatur Blvd.

• Hours: Wednesday though Thursday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday-Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Phone: 702-455-2000

“Clark County and the Bureau of Land Management have a shared shooting closure to protect the residents within the Las Vegas Valley,” John Asselin, Public Affairs Specialist for Bureau of Land Management, said in an email. “Shooting is only allowed outside of these designations as you leave town.”

Where you can't shoot

Metro Officer Jay Rivera says that even at 1,000 feet away, a bullet will have sufficient impact to hurt someone, so when in doubt, err on the side of safety. Start by avoiding the locations listed below, where shooting is prohibited:

• Within the Las Vegas Valley

• Within one half-mile of highways

• Within 1,000 feet of roads or houses

• Within 500 feet of trails, campgrounds or picnic areas

• Apex, Nellis Dunes, Red Rock National Conservation Area, Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area, Sunrise Mountain

BLM Southern Nevada’s guidelines for shooters

• Never shoot from or over any road or highway

• Always use a safe backdrop

• Glass targets are prohibited

• Carry in your targets and carry out all litter, brass and shell casings