Another mass shooting — this one the worst in recent memory — another round of gun-control discussions. Before hitting “post” on your social-media tirade for or against, you may want to check your facts. Probably not, but here are a few anyway.
How many Nevadans own guns? 37.5 percent of adults as of 2013, say researchers from the University of Columbia school of Public Health. That estimate, based on sample data, is a bit higher than the 34 percent of adults who reported to the CDC in 2004 that they lived in a household with a gun.
How many people are killed by guns? In Nevada, 429 during 2014 — up from 392 a decade earlier — or 15 gun deaths for every 100,000 state residents. Nationwide, the Pew Research Center has reported, gun violence has been declining since the ’90s. At the same time, so-called “rampage violence” is on the rise.
Who gets shot? In 2013, there were 88 gun homicides in Nevada, compared with 292 suicides. In other words, people shoot themselves to death three times more often than shooting someone else.
How do Nevada’s gun laws compare to other states’? Gunpolicy.org describes them as “permissive.”
Define “permissive.” Apart from those requiring a federal permit, such as fully automatic weapons, no permit is required to buy a gun in Nevada. In general, adults age 18 and older can have a gun unless they’ve been convicted of certain crimes, are legal fugitives or in the country illegally, are drug addicts, have been declared mentally unfit by a judge or are falling-down drunk/high.
What’s “pre-emption”? In 2015, the Nevada legislature passed Senate Bill 175, which repeals local ordinances related to firearms (except those concerning unsafe discharge) and gives the state the exclusive jurisdiction in this area.
What’s the distinction between open and concealed carry? People can openly carry a weapon in public unless they’re prohibited from doing so (see “permissive” above), they’re on public-school grounds or it’s a long gun and they’re in a vehicle on a public road. Carrying a concealed weapon requires a permit, issued by the county, which entails an application, class, fingerprints, photograph and proof that you’re not a convict of various crimes, parolee, substance abuser or stalker.
Who has to have a background check? The federal Brady Act requires licensed firearm dealers to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm, unless the purchaser already has a state permit. States can opt to do their own background check or have the FBI do them; Nevada does its own. An initiative (question No. 1) on November’s ballot is looking to extend the background check law from licensed dealers only to most everyone who sells a gun.
Is this a liberal attempt to take people’s guns away? Not according to registered Republican and 30-year Metro police veteran David Kallas, who’s on the Nevadans for Background Checks advisory board. “Obviously, we support the Second Amendment,” he says. “We want people to continue to have guns, but we want the standard under which people access handguns to be the same for everybody.”
What happened to the effort to make it harder for the mentally ill to get guns in Nevada? Not much, other than the state catching up on its database backlog of people deemed unfit to possess a firearm due to reasons of mental illness. Former Senator Justin Jones, who championed reforming the process, says, “Some other states have expanded the limitation on owning firearms from only those who have been adjudicated mentally ill by a court (e.g., Nevada) to also include those who have been voluntarily admitted for mental illness (California) or who otherwise suffer from a psychiatric disorder that is likely to substantially impair judgment (Texas). It may be time for Nevada to consider other options.”