In the wake of the murder of more than 50 concert attendees in Nevada, many are asking about the role that the law plays in this situation. How are guns bought, sold, carried, and used in Nevada? It turns out Nevada has few laws involving the sale of guns, and those it does have are subject to interpretation by police and courts. Let’s dig into the specifics.
- For most Nevadan residents, buying a gun is a simple process: You don’t need a permit to purchase a firearm, a license to carry one, or a need to register that firearm. Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, did have firearm registration laws, but those were overruled by Republican governor Brian Sandoval in 2015. While Nevada does ban certain groups of people — domestic abusers, felons, undocumented migrants, and addicts — from owning and carrying firearms, Nevada courts have been criticized for failing to properly enforce that law.
- The guns may have been purchased legally: Since Paddock wasn’t a felon or a known drug user, he could have had no issue purchasing his weapons. While you do need a license for concealed carry for handguns, long guns — such as the ones Paddock used — can be concealed without a permit. Furthermore, Nevada is a “shall issue” state for concealed carry, which means state authorities must comply with federal law and have no discretion as to who may or not receive a permit.
- Nevada also bans certain kinds of guns: These include assault weapons, and the assembly of such weapons using more than ten parts shipped into the state. However, it’s unclear how Nevada authorities would discover this law being broken without the weapon in question being used. And nothing is stopping Nevadans from bringing banned weapons into the state. Private sales are, under a ballot question Nevadans passed in 2016, supposed to be subject to a background check, but Nevada’s attorney general has publicly stated he views the law as unenforceable.
The exact impact on gun laws after a terrorist act such as the one in Las Vegas will be debated endlessly. But so far as we currently know, until the first shot was fired, Stephen Paddock may have been following Nevada’s stated laws when it came to his guns.