Tuesday, August 15, 2017

When the Washoe Area Hated Guns



Many Nevadans think Clark County is the capital of gun control in the Silver State, but historically, Washoe County and Reno in particular were the most hostile to the Second Amendment and had the most obtrusive gun regulations in the state. For much of the 20th century, until 1999, loaded open carry was illegal in Reno. Few know just how perilously close Nevada to becoming a gun control state.

Traditionally, concealed carry was preferred to open carry, which was seen as a rural or outdoorsman’s practice. Urban open carry was largely unheard of and cause for spectacle, even in frontier towns. Despite open carry being legal, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to carry concealed, even if breaking the law, or not carry at all, sometimes to their detriment. This right, long affirmed by state courts, was forgotten and the resurgence around the year 2000 took many by surprise. The lack of practiced open carry was a catalyst in the shall-issue wave of concealed weapon permit laws of the 1990s.

Like many places in the West, Nevada had state concealed weapon bans off-and-on throughout its early history. Despite this, men continued to carry. Lax attitudes towards violence created an atmosphere where society largely excused the killing of men left the world better off dead. Sick of the violence, concealed weapons were banned as an attempt at a solution.

Local ordinances that varied from one place to another banned concealed, or sometimes even all firearms. The laws were ineffective, leading to various state schemes that increased in severity until the 1920s. History is clear; the concealed weapons ban did not stem violence. What changed was that frontier society (where much violence was) began to strongly disapprove of  easy killing and fighting over petty matters.

It seems that the most effective laws were ones to provide for better resolution of disputes in civil court and criminal justice reform, including laws detailing what exactly self-defense and justifiable homicide was. Until laws were reformed, juries would find men not guilty if they cited even a bare, unsubstantiated fear, providing the dead man wasn’t too well liked.

Concealed weapons, versus openly carried weapons, were stigmatized for two reasons. First, concealed carry has always been more popular than open carry. Second, the fear of a man going for a hidden weapon—a furtive movement—was responsible for many preemptive killings. Guilty by association, concealed carry received a reputation as something only degenerates and criminals practiced. If a man felt the need to go armed, he should carry his revolver openly. Few did.

In 1903, Nevada passed a law prohibiting concealed weapons in cities, towns, villages and on trains or stages. Permits could be obtained by applying to the county commissioners and demonstrating need. A reporter from the Daily Nevada State Journal made multiple citizens' arrests of the Reno police chief and several officers for carrying concealed weapons as the statute mentioned "any person" and did not exempt law enforcement. The officers reluctantly admitted the reporter was right and the reporter's point was made.

In Washoe County, no concealed weapon permits were issued between 1917 and 1944, when two businessmen received temporary permits to carry pistols. The commission planned, in a draft ordinance to deny concealed weapon permits to all but those "who cannot avail themselves of police protection."

The county commissioner system was changed to the sheriff in 1959 in a bill proposed by Sen. Floyd Lamb (SB93). The concern was that the commissioners were "not in a position to know the background on all applicants" and that "the sheriff can exercise greater control." In 1993, a “shall issue” concealed carry bill failed for lack of support among law enforcement. Inertia had not quite built up nationally to catapult the law into effect in Nevada on the first try. Once again, preserving local laws were a paramount concern.

Barney Dehl, Chief Deputy of Washoe County Sheriff, said “A concealed weapons permit should be limited to persons who did not pose a threat to public safety.” He directly referenced Reno’s ordinances (then in force), complaining that the proposed bill would allow concealed firearm permits to override local ordinances. “He alleged as the bill currently stood, the cities and counties would not have the authority to limit any place in their jurisdiction where weapons could not be carried.” Time has proven these fears were unfounded.

Only in 1995, did Nevada get a “shall issue” concealed firearm permitting system, much to the opposition of law enforcement. As passed, the bill created NRS 202.3673, which for a few years banned concealed carry in public buildings of every type, but not public places as in Reno.

Two Incidents, Lasting Effects

 In November of 1965, at the behest of police chief Elmer Briscoe, the Reno city council took up an ordinance to ban the open carry of loaded weapons. Briscoe was a supporter of gun control, including the proposals making the rounds during the 1960s like handgun registration and three-day waiting periods on purchases. Other proposals like banning non-citizens (green card holders) from owning guns had been making the rounds over the years, but few managed to stick.

The ordinance had its roots in two incidents. These are the two lone examples of gun scares or open carry issues, at least that were reported, at the time. It seems more likely that the incidents were overblown by the police chief and pushed by powerful interests.

One incident was where a mental patient from California stepped off a bus in downtown Reno with two handguns on his hips. Another man walked into a casino restaurant, with a least a revolver on his hip and possibly carrying other weapons, “looking for” a security guard. Accounts vary, including that the man was a hunter carrying a revolver who simply went into the casino. Exaggeration of the details may not be out of the question, as will be seen shortly.

The “hunter” was charged under a city ordinance that made it illegal to 'wear, carry, or conceal' a dangerous weapon. At trial, the Washoe District Court Judge found that the city failed "to show the weapon was concealed." The assistant city attorney said that this invalidated the ordinance, as "its intent [as per the judge] is to ban the carrying of a weapon that is concealed." He asked the city council to either repeal or amend the ordinance, proposing that "it apply only to the open carrying of wearing of dangerous weapons" by removing "conceal" from the text.

It is strongly implied that the appeals judge deliberately did not apply the ordinance as the weapon was a carried openly. An editorial criticized "It's pretty difficult for a layman to understand that the phrase 'wear, carry or conceal' requires the prosecution to prove concealment...”

Reno's 1905 ordinance


The original ban from 1905 stated it was illegal to “wear, carry, or have concealed upon his person” a number of weapons. Likely, the judge made his decision on a syntaxial basis, imaging commas to create the grammatical effect of making “wear, carry, or have” apply to only weapons that were concealed. Apparently, the 1905 city council meant to ban concealed weapons and dangerous weapons worn, carried, or had on the person.

Since the 1905 ordinance was invalidated, the city council prepared a new ordinance, which would persist as 8.18.010 of the municipal code until 1999. The ordinance banned carrying concealed firearms without a permit (duplicating state law), prohibited carrying wearing loaded firearms in public places or on public streets and also any casino, bar, bank, cabaret, theater, park, school or playground without police permission, and permitted peace officers to inspect firearms on demand to determine if they were loaded.

The hysterical Chief Briscoe defended his support of the ban thusly:
“How is a police officer to determine if a guy carrying a gun in his belt is not intending to hold up some place? If hunters have small caliber pistols, I see no reason why they can't secure these guns the same as they do with rifles. Hunters don't walk into restaurants to have breakfast with loaded rifles in their hands. 
"I don't feel people should be allowed to walk around with guns at their sides just because there is nothing to prohibit them from doing so. I would hate to be standing in a bank lobby when four men walked in carrying guns. Oh, I would think, 'It is okay. They are just going hunting?' This would give a lot of bank officials gray hair. 
"...we should have some control over the indiscriminate carrying of firearms. There are undesirable people who could take advantage of the fact that we don't have any law against the open carrying of weapons. Every law we have penalizes a few people for the sake of a lot of people."
The appeal was questioned by Councilman Hunter who said that the obvious intent of the ordinance was specifically intended to prohibit both open and concealed carry. Councilman Chism said "Who would want to carry a loaded gun around in public? Anyone who wants to is up to no good. And he is the type we do not want carrying loaded guns around." Another councilman said "it is a fundamental teaching of sports groups not to carry loaded firearms around."

The ordinance immediately "came under heavy fire.” One editorial opined "some people even brought the U.S. Constitution into it." Chief Briscoe thought that liberty should suffer for public safety, a view not at all uncommon among late 20th century law enforcement leadership.  "Unfortunately, sometimes laws have to be passed to protect the people from themselves. This law would be for the protection of the community. I don't think it would penalize the community." He would have made a communist proud.

Chester Piazzo, president of Sportsman Inc. said in opposition "robbers are not the types to carry firearms openly." Another businessman, Charles Beaman, sad "I live in constant fear of robbery. It is not the robbery so much, but being mugged, stomped upon, or pistol whipped." Both Piazzo and Beamen carried pistols to and from work.
"Either pass a very restrictive law, or let the state law cover and forget it. If it's against the law to carry a gun into a casino, then it ought to be against the law to carry one into a grocery store, a department store—or what have you. And it probably won't be long until the operator of some such business requests his type of enterprise be added to the list. Then another—and another, until the confusion will make the ordinance meaningless. Which happens when you start to compromise to mollify both sides.”

Briscoe defended the ban by saying "...we should have some control over the indiscriminate carrying of firearms. There are undesirable people who could take advantage of the fact that we don't have any law against the open carrying of weapons. Every law we have penalizes a few people for the sake of a lot of people." A councilman suggested prohibiting only loaded pistols, to which Briscoe replied "An unloaded pistol is just as much a threat as a loaded one because you do not know if it is loaded." Briscoe’s suggestion was not heeded.

A little known joke is that during the second half of the last century, the Second Amendment only applied to hunting (except with a machine gun), at least in the minds of many, as it continues to persist in the opinions of many anti-gun individuals and politicians. Thankfully for the Washoe sportsman, Briscoe wanted to protect hunters. Chief Briscoe stated that hunters would be recognizable, as "they are appropriately dressed and on the streets at certain hours of the day," but that he would know a man carrying golf clubs and a .45 would not be a hunter.

Despite public outcry, the ordinance was passed, but exempted unloaded firearms, mirroring provisions of California’s later Mulford Act. According to Charles Beaman, a laundromat owner, the ordinance was passed "because of pressure from casino operators,” certainly nothing new in Nevada. Opposition by the public was apparently limited. The NRA would not transform into the heavily politically involved organization is today until the 1977 “Cincinnati Revolution.”

Today, a similar proposal would be met with a flood of negative publicity. Lawsuits would be legion. However, in the days before the Internet, only legal experts with access to a myriad of old court decisions could prove that across the country, open carry was the constitutionally preferred method of carry. In fact, for most Americans, it was not until the publication of the Ninth Circuit Court’s final decision in Peruta v. Gore that Second Amendment advocates became aware of the open carry cases.

Again, one must remember this was a different time in America where urbanites largely forgot about their right to self-defense. In the 1960s, the consensus among some that carrying guns for self-defense didn’t make people safe was nothing new. Even in the 1930s, relying on city police was considered the “right” thing to do.
“Since police protection is pretty effective in most cities, even for tourists who are guests of the cities, the simpler way might be to make the possession of guns a some what more difficult matter. Few citizens have ever bettered their position by the use of firearms.”
Las Vegas was a dusty, rural backwater by comparison then, while Reno was a well-known, almost cosmopolitan, city. The peaceful times that Reno residents experienced in their lives were far from the Wild West days where the local sheriff was far away. Only after the turbulent and bloody years from the mid-60’s on would public opinion change to support daily self-defense carry.

Attitudes

Ten years after banning open carry, Reno police warned its "jittery women" not to carry loaded guns in public without permission of the chief of police. A 1971 senate bill was proposed at the request of a citizen to allow women to carry mace, then considered a concealed weapon. Carson Sheriff Robert Humphrey opposed the bill, proud of his record of denying the right to bear arms.

"I don't think a woman is going to be able to get mace out of her purse and use it effectively. It might give a woman a false feeling of security and cause her to be hurt more than if she didn't have it. I've never issued a concealed weapon permit and never will and I feel the same way about mace. If a person has it, they're going to be looking for an excuse to use it."

Elsewhere

Stupid gun laws are not limited to just the urban counties. In 1984, Mineral County Sheriff John Madraso Jr. proposed to expand the town of Hawthorne's 1946 ban on concealed weapons to the entire county. The public was incensed and flooded the county commissioners' meeting. Allegedly, it would require registration of anything definable as a weapon, including any sharp object, and ban openly carried weapons.

Madraso claimed that the changes were needed because of 20 cases of persons calling about openly carried weapons, some of which were taken into schools. At the time, it was not illegal under state to carry a firearm into a school. Madraso blamed DA Larry Bettis for the uproar, who blamed the sheriff in return. The ordinance was not passed.

Hawthorne’s 1946 ordinance is still on the books of the Mineral County Code.

Preemption

In 1987, light appeared at the end of the tunnel. Florida was leading the nation with its efforts to create a shall-issue concealed weapon permit system. Self-defense carry and handgun ownership was beginning to re-emerge from its long stigma dating from the days of the Old West. All fronts of the Second Amendment were not in sunshine, however.

In 1981, the city of Morton Grove, Illinois, decided to ban ownership of handguns and the Supreme Court did not hear the appeal. Concerned for such abuses spreading, over thirty states passed laws to prevent local governments from making their own abusive gun control laws. Assemblyman Dini touted that the preemption bill would prevent panic legislation (as happened in Reno in 1965).

State preemption of firearm regulation was first proposed in 1987 as AB 288 by Assemblyman Thompson of Clark County. He vehemently denied dogged accusations that preemption was at the behest of the NRA, but drafted at a constituent’s request. "The point is, [preemption] is not part of some nefarious plot, or secret scheme,” he later said in response to those baseless allegations the “gun lobby” was trying to weaken law enforcement. Opposition, largely by LVMPD, was intense and caused the bill to die in the 1987 legislative session.

In 1989, Thompson proposed AB 147, which ultimately became law. In its original form, the various changes to preemption, including enhanced preemption of 2015, would have been unnecessary. Once again, the powerful forces of LVMPD doomed the provisions that would have put all localities on an even playing field. Reno police were in opposition as well as they would lose their open carry ban ordinance.

Clark County and Metro officials objected because their three-day waiting period and handgun registration (“blue cards”) ordinances would be invalidated. Undersheriff Cooper said that "Las Vegas was becoming a major city with major city problems, therefore, Las Vegas could not be compared to the remainder of the state." Metro fear-mongered that public safety would suffer and detectives would stumble blindly through criminal investigations.

Sheriff Moran said: "[...] I think Las Vegas is a very unique city and requires gun regulations that would be impractical in rural areas. [...] Las Vegas is unlike any other city in the world. [...] but there comes a time when even I have to interpret the Constitution as I see fit [emphasis added]."

Moran’s statement shows the shocking arrogance of law enforcement leaders of the time and why Metro in particular was so dead-set against preemption laws and for strictly restricting citizens' Second Amendment rights (until Sheriff Lombardo saw the writing on the wall).

Unable to overcome Metro’s opposition, Assemblyman Garner suggested grandfathering all local laws already in existence. The intent of the grandfather clause was specifically to preserve Clark County ordinances, which Metro practically begged to keep. As a side effect, Reno’s ordinances also remained in effect, which was not at all the aim of the bill.

AB 147 passed and state preemption of firearms laws became Nevada law. Only the legislature could regulate guns, except for unsafe discharge of firearms. Yet the bill failed in its original purpose; as a result of Garner’s amendment to grandfather in existing laws, only future regulations could be prevented. Clark County and Reno’s law remained on the books and enforceable. For Nevadans, nothing would change except to alleviate fears of ordinances getting worse. Preemption was dreadfully weak and had no teeth.

In 1999, John Riggs, a member of the now-defunct Nevada State Rifle and Pistol Association, successfully petitioned the Reno city council to repeal their ban. Ordinance 5035 made open carry legal in Reno once again. Details behind this action seem to be lost to history. It is unknown if the ban had been enforced in recent times.

One by one, prior to 2015, effectively all the local legal obstacles to open and concealed carry were repealed, except in Clark County. Even in the counties that didn’t repeal their ordinances, active enforcement stopped long before 2015. Notably, in regards to Clark County’s park gun ban ordinance, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto wrote an opinion justifying the enforceability of pre-1989 local ordinances and regulations. This directly led to the call for enhanced preemption.

Under Cortez Masto’s logic, as long as the ordinance or regulation had not been altered since 1989, it would continue in force. SB 92 of 2007 should have invalidated all local ordinances, as it did not contain the 1989 bills grandfather clause, but corruption prevailed and local laws stayed. Without the success of enhanced preemption being signed into law in 2015, Reno’s open carry ban would have stood for nearly fifty years, long into the era when openly carried guns were once again nothing to get excited about.

Conclusion

Today, anachronisms remain on the books in northern Nevada. While most local regulations go unenforced, they have no place under the law. Washoe and Mineral Counties are in violation of the law for failing to repeal its conflicting ordinances on the carry of weapons. Some of the local laws, such as sale or possession of weapons by minors, are now covered by state law. Whether discharge ordinances area “unsafe” discharge ordinances is up for debate. Those laws, while not bothering anyone, need to be removed as well.

However, our focus need to be first aimed at expunging the offensive legacy of gun control in northern Nevada, particularly the remaining laws in Washoe and Mineral Counties. One by one, the small issues can be corrected, but first and foremost, the ugly scars remaining among the ordinances of those counties must be erased.


Sources

  1. Sec. 6568, Crimes and Punishments, Statutes of Nevada (1903)
  2. "Is this law defective?" Daily Nevada State Journal. July 18, 1903. p. 1
  3. "Concealed Weapon Ordinance Planned." Nevada State Journal. Feb. 6, 1953. p. 1
  4. "Concealed Weapon Control Tightened." Nevada State Journal. Jan. 30, 1959. p. 10
  5. Minutes of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. March 10, 1993.
  6. "Council Mulls Gun Law-And Then Compromises." Nevada State Journal. p.. 17 Nob. 24, 1965.
  7. Ordinance 45, Section 7. Aug. 29, 1905. (Reno Municipal Code), repealed  

    It shall be unlawful for any person within the limits of the city of Reno, to wear, carry, or have concealed upon his person any dirk knife, pistol, sword in case, slung shot, brass knuckles, razor or other dangerous weapon without first obtaining permission from the City Council. The City Council may, upon application made in writing showing the reason of the person or the purpose for which any concealed weapon is to be carried, grant permission under the seal of the city and attested by its clerk to the person making such application authorizing such person to carry the concealed weapon described in such permission. Any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be fined not less than twenty ($20.00) dollars nor more than five hundred ($500.00) dollars, or imprisoned in the city jail for not less than thirty (30) days, nor more than six (6) months. This section shall not apply to peace officers in the discharge of their duties, nor to persons acting or engaged in the business of common carriers within this state, nor to person traveling through the state. 

  8. Section 8.18.010 Concealed and dangerous weapons (Reno Municipal Code), repealed  

    a. It is unlawful for any person within the city limits to carry or wear a firearm in any casino, bar, bank, cabaret, theater, park, school or playground without first obtaining permission from the chief of police.
    b. It is unlawful for any person, except as provided in subsection (c) to carry or wear a loaded firearm upon the public streets or in a public place within the city without first obtaining permission from the chief of police.
    c. The prohibition of subsection (b) does not apply to a person carrying a concealed weapon pursuant to a permit issued by a sheriff pursuant to subsection 4 of section 202.350 of Nevada Revised Statutes.
    d. Further, it is unlawful for any person to refuse any police officer to examine any firearm worn or carried for the purpose of ascertaining if the firearm is loaded or not.
    e. This section does not apply to a peace officer in the discharge of his duties.
    f. As used in this section the term "firearm" includes any weapon immediately capable of propelling an object with destruction force as the result of the combustion of gases or the generation thereof through another device including the expulsion of air from a weapon. The term incudes, but it not limited to: Rifles, shotguns, pistols, airguns, pellet guns and blow guns or dart guns capable of ejecting metal darts of any nature.

  9. “Council Mulls Gun Law-And Then Compromises." Nevada State Journal. p.. 17 Nob. 24, 1965.”
  10. "Chief Backs Gun-Toter Crackdown." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 11, 1965.
  11. Kauth, Robert. "Gun Crackdown Comes Under Fire." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 16, 1965.
  12. Kauth, Robert. "Gun Crackdown Comes Under Fire." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 16, 1965.
  13. "Council Revamps Reno Gun Law by 4-3 Vote." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 23, 1965.
  14.  “Council Mulls Gun Law-And Then Compromises." Nevada State Journal. p.. 17 Nob. 24, 1965.”
  15. "Chief Backs Gun-Toter Crackdown." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 11, 1965.
  16. Kauth, Robert. "Gun Crackdown Comes Under Fire." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 16, 1965.
  17. "Council Mulls Gun Law-And Then Compromises." Nevada State Journal. p.. 17 Nob. 24, 1965.
  18. Kauth, Robert. "Gun Crackdown Comes Under Fire." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 16, 1965.
  19. "Chief Backs Gun-Toter Crackdown." Nevada State Journal. Nov. 11, 1965.
  20. "Reno Ok's Loaded Gun Ban." Reno Evening Gazette. Nov. 22, 1965. p. 1
  21. Defending His 'Castle'. Reno Evening Gazette. Sept. 12, 1930.
  22. "Reno women reminded of law." Reno Gazette-Journal. March 10, 1976.
  23. "Women barred from carrying mace in purse." Reno Evening Gazette. Feb. 4, 1971. p. 2
  24. McMillan, Doug. "Firearms ordinance creates furor in Mineral County." Reno Gazette-Journal. Nov. 24, 1984. p. 23
  25. 9.76.10 and 9.76.020 Mineral County Code
  26. Compiled Legislative History, AB 147 (1989)













Monday, August 14, 2017

School Gun Ban Wasn't Intended for Colleges/Universities

Last week, the Nevada Firearms Coalition set off a firestorm on Facebook when it posted a question, “How many know that Campus Carry is already legal in Nevada?” Stimulating discussion was the goal, and it certainly did. Of course, only with written permission of campus authorities, may a concealed firearm permittee carry on campus. A person seeking to carry concealed on campus sends a written request to the campus president for consideration.

What if you asked for permission and were told not even to bother? That is the way that Nevada treats armed citizens who apply for permission. Requests are regularly denied, including one for an off-duty corrections officer. Several persons have reported that even asking “How do I apply?” is me with “Don’t bother, they don’t approve anybody.” The right to effective, preemptive self-defense on college and university campuses has been denied to Nevadans.

State law provides for the Nevada System of Higher Education (Board of Trustees) to create a policy for all public colleges and universities to guide the individual campus presidents in granting permission. The policy cites part of the landmark Supreme Court case, DC v. Heller, to justify its ban, calling colleges and universities, “sensitive” spaces. “The statutory prohibition of weapons, including firearms on campus, is longstanding,” the policy reads.

The “longstanding” prohibition of NRS 202.265 dates from 1989’s AB 346. As drafted, the law originally applied only to high schools as there was a problem with students, usually involved in gangs or drugs, who brought weapons to school. Colleges and universities were added after the bill became public. Before that, only student codes of conduct prohibited weapons without permission, originating after concerns about student riots.

Not What You Think

Today’s monolithic denial policy was not the intention of the legislators who crafted the first ban on guns in schools. In 1989, open carry was uncommon, concealed carry permits were “may issue” with need, and many Americans scoffed at the idea of carrying a gun for protection. The campus carry ban is a product of its time and an anachronism when most Americans accept concealed carry as a right. School shootings were tragic crimes and a far-fetched possibility, not “an epidemic” and reasonable fear as they are now.

1989’s AB 346 was sponsored by Assemblyman Gaston, apparently at the behest of Clark County District Attorney Ken Hicks and the Clark County School District. Schools there were seeing increasing problems with crime, escalating to possession of firearms on campus. Expulsion was not enough of a penalty to deter students from bringing guns on campus. “Students feel that guns enhance their image...The kids are laughing up their sleeves at the system,” DA Hicks said.

The original draft only referred to "a private or public school" and exempted those with "written permission from the principal of the school." Law enforcement suggested a ‘gun free school-zone’ perimeter around the school, but this was apparently never acted upon due to constitutional concerns.

Clark County School District (CCSD) officials requested a violation be a felony to discourage non-students, explaining that at the time, an openly carried weapon (by an adult) would be perfectly legal and the threat of expulsion was not a deterrent. From the context of the hearing, it appears that self-defense carry in today's context was not the issue, but criminals or gang members close in age to the students may have been the concern. "Right now a kid can come on the school campus and have his Uzi on the seat of his car and there is nothing we can do about it," said Mr. Koot of the DA's office. Lost to history is whether or not they indeed wanted to ban innocent open carry or saw open carry as a loophole for a miscreant to exploit.

No concern for legal weapons in vehicles, such as a hunter with a rifle in his back window, was shown, legislators suggesting instead that the hunter park off campus and walk his child in. It was felt by a CCSD official that law enforcement would be allowed discretion to ignore such technical violations if they meant no harm. Assemblyman Carpenter seemed to be the lone voice of caution to avoid penalties for law-abiding citizens.

After colleges and universities were added to the ban, Senator Wagner objected that a university student with a legal firearm or other weapon in their parked vehicle would be impacted by the law. Assemblyman Gaston reply essentially indicated he did not care that the university student would be negatively impacted.

However: "Mr. Gaston remarked the University System was not part of this [the bill] initially as the original intent was directed at high schools, but [the University System] requested to be included." The University System is now known as the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE).

In response, Henry Etchemendy, representing the Nevada Association of School Boards, stated that student rights were protected because there was "sufficient discretionary authority...by the ability to obtain written permission from a Principal to deviate from general practice." Assemblyman Gaston told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the bill would exempt "anyone who legitimately has a reason to bring a dangerous weapon [on school grounds] after having received permission [emphasis added]."

Discretion

So, not only do we see that colleges and universities were secondary to the original purpose of the bill, but discretion, both for police and the educational authorities, was to be exercised. Sadly, they seldom are. Time has shown that discretion without guidance has proved to be effectively a denial of the right to self-defense. For all intents and purposes, only the most extreme or exceptional circumstances (such as an off-duty police officer speaking on campus) justify granting permission for concealed carry.

In 2011, only one student at UNR had permission to carry and none at UNLV. Campus carry advocate Amanda Collins had to carry only under the condition of absolute secrecy and only after she was victimized. During the hearings for SB 231 in 2011, she told the Senate Judiciary Committee: 
"I question why it takes somebody being assaulted before being allowed to defend oneself. Also, what makes me special? Why do only I get to defend myself? Am I granted permission because I was assaulted at gunpoint in a gun-free zone?" 
In 2011, UNR had received about a dozen requests and approved one. During the 2015 campus carry legislation hearings, further details came out. Catherine Cortez Masto, former Nevada Attorney General and then Executive Vice Chancellor of NSHE said: 
"With respect to the CCWs on our college campuses, the statistics that I have available show that there were nine requests at UNR last year. Four of them were nongun related because they were for weapons in general. Five of them were for guns. At UNLV, there were three requests last year. At Truckee Meadows Community College, there were six requests. Western Nevada College had one request. I am sure you would like to know how many were denied or approved. Of the nine at UNR, five were denied, and four were approved."
 Assemblywoman Michelle Fiore addressed the details of the actual approvals: 
"There were 13 concealed weapons permit applications. One was approved, and one was approved for a one-day pass. Therefore, we have one concealed weapons permit to carry on campus which was approved throughout the whole state of Nevada. In her testimony, Mrs. Cortez Masto said there were four approved. As for the other three, I want you to understand that it was not a concealed weapon that was approved. If I was doing a presentation on firearms on one of the NSHE campuses and I wanted to bring in my acrylic AK-47 lamp, which is plastic and not a firearm, I would have to get permission to go on campus with it. Just like this necklace of a firearm that I always wear, they would find it offensive because it is a firearm. These are things that we would have to get permission for. Therefore, the three other permissions granted were for things like that."
In 2008, President Lucey of Western Nevada College reported she only gave permission to the Loomis driver who serviced the ATM.

NSHE’s Policy Terms

Presidents have discretionary authority, subject to the conditions set by the Board of Trustees. The duty of the president is to:

“An NSHE institution President who receives a written request from an individual to carry a concealed weapon on the campus must consider, investigate, and evaluate each request on a case by case basis, giving individual consideration to each specific request, and must make a determination on each request according to a need standard.”

Permits are may issue and require a specific “need” under the most stringent interpretation of the word. Determining factors are: 
1. a specific risk of attack presented by an actual threat;
2. a general risk of attack presented by the nature of the individual’s current or former profession, as established by actual evidence of increased risk of attack on such individuals; or
3. a legitimate educational or business purpose. 
Amanda Collins would not have qualified for a permit prior to her being attacked as the danger of rape was a risk general to any woman, rather than a certain risk to Amanda. Indeed, a cynical and unsympathetic president could even deny a future victim permission to carry if the suspect was apprehended, justifying it as the “specific risk of attack” abated with the attacker’s incarceration. Thankfully, no one here is that cold-hearted.

NSHE’s Policy Justification

One would think that a policy would outline the specific safety concerns and risks of armed young students that opponents to campus carry always bring up. Instead, NSHE prefaces its regulations not with safety concerns, but with concern for sensibilities
“NSHE is committed to providing an orderly academic environment for learning that promotes the acquisition of knowledge and advances the free exchange of ideas. The preservation of this educational environment is an important objective for the NSHE and its institutions...The prohibition contributes to the welcoming and open nature of the NSHE institutions and promotes an atmosphere conducive to learning.” 
Feelings and perceptions trump safety. The only “need” to ban firearms is to avoid offending anti-gun students, faculty, and staff. Time and time again, the criminality and risk from concealed carriers, even college-age students, have been debunked. At this time, there is no justification whatsoever for banning concealed carry on campus and no legitimate defense for maintaining a ban. The facts have spoken; only those who stand recalcitrant to reason choose to deny well established facts and positive experiences from other states.

Ultimately, much of the opposition is afraid of firearms. Some don’t understand firearms, and having no experience with them, root their opposition in a fear of what is unknown to them. Others lack the ability to imagine all but the worst cases, letting their emotion of what could go wrong obliterate the evidence that campus carry is no more dangerous than off-campus. And then there are political reasons which bear no need for commentary.

Conclusion

The sea change in attitudes towards weapons in the hands of individuals changed in less than ten years after Nevada’s school gun ban was imposed. Shall-issue concealed carry passed in 1995. Despite the increasing frequency of high-profile mass shootings, the general trend in the United States has been to remove obstacles to armed citizens.

Surely Nevada legislators were moved by the 1999 Columbine killings to enact further legislation. On the contrary. "We've hardly discussed it. You can pass any many bills as you like, but the bad people will still find a way to get a gun," said Senator Dean Rhoads of Tuscarora. Democratic Assemblyman Bernie Anderson said "Our experience is that people who have firearms are responsible users."

Non-gun ban related bills were the 70th Legislature's preferred way to address the problems with violence in schools. "Here, most folks believe the concealed-weapons issue has no relevance. But we want to deal with [violence] in other ways,” said a Democrat from Henderson. [5]

The historical record is clear; legal guns on college and university campuses have never been a problem. Legislators did not originally seek to deny concealed carriers the ability to carry on campus, but rather allowed it to happen as carrying a handgun legally was uncommon. Authorities were to use their discretion to the benefit of gun owners and not to deny practically every request.

Armed citizens and members of the educational community must be involved in the elections and actions of the Board of Regents. Regents who are friendly to gun owners can help create quality policies without resorting to the difficulties of the legislative process. Continue reaching out to students, teachers, and professors about the Second Amendment and the gun culture.

2017 is not 1989. Handguns and self-defense carry are popular in America and once again they are recognized by the majority as not only a right, but sometimes as a necessity. The old conventions about who carries are gun and the risk of accident vs. probability of a defensive gun use have changed. Old policies created under a paradigm that no longer exists and enforced today for political reasons need to be eradicated or altered to reflect today’s reality.

Sources:

NSHE Handbook, Title 4, Section 31 Possession of Weapons on NSHE Property


AB 346 (1989) Legislative History

SB 231 (2011)

Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee on Judiciary. March 5, 2015.

Minutes of the NSHE Board of Regents. Feb. 7, 2008

Gillis, Kyle. "NLV peace officer challenges campus weapons policy." Nevada Journal. May 29, 2012.

Frank, George. “code of conduct asked for campus.” Reno Evening Gazette. May 27, 1970. p. 1

AP. "Panel considers bill to ban guns from campuses." Reno Gazette-Journal. March, 1989. p. 4A

O'Driscoll, Bill. "Nevada lawmakers shy away from gun laws." Reno Gazette-Journal. June 5, 1999. p. 3

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Washoe County Still Violates State Preemption

As every Nevadan knows, Las Vegas and Clark County often steal the show in our state. As a result, sometimes things fall through the cracks, such as Washoe County firearm ordinances preempted by state law. Several ordinances that were required to be repealed in 2015 still remain.

As you are aware, NRS 244.364 prohibits counties from creating firearm regulations, except regulating unsafe discharge of firearms, and requires the repeal of any prohibited ordinances or regulations. Enhanced preemption passed in 2015 mainly to eradicate the anachronistic Clark County blue card handgun registration system and to invalidate local ordinances that conflicted with state law. Overwhelmingly, Clark County municipalities and agencies compiled by repealing the illegal ordinances and regulations, with the notable exception of the incorrigible Las Vegas Clark County Library District.

Washoe County still has several firearm regulation ordinances not pertaining to the unsafe discharge of firearms on the books, including a ban on possessing firearms in parks and a concealed weapon ordinance that was superseded by state law in 1995. An area resident brought the park ordinance to our attention and an investigation turned up the following ordinances inconsistent with state law.
  • Ordinance 95.220 prohibits possession of firearms in parks.
  • Ordinances 50.075 to 50.083 inclusive, regarding concealed weapons permits, has been superseded by state law since 1995.
  • Ordinances 50.160, 50.162, and 50.164, regarding spotlight hunting, are not given an exemption and duplicate a provision of NRS 503.150 (hunting regulations).
The parks superintendent, Colleen Wallace Barnum, replied to the citizen that the District Attorney’s office informed her that such ordinances were grandfathered in, as they were enacted in 1979. This is not the case. Either someone is stupid or thinks the public is. Enhanced preemption invalidated all conflicting ordinances. Grandfathered ordinances were specifically eliminated by 2015’s SB 175/240. The Attorney General’s opinion in regards to the Clark County park ordinance has been invalidated by the legislature. For more information on preemption and the parks issues down south, please visit the Local Laws page on the main site.

The Washoe citizen who notified us has asked the county commissioners for repeal of the ordinances. We have also sent an email informing them of the issue. Residents of Washoe County would be well-advised to contact their commissioners on their own to request repeal.


Though enforcement does not seem to be an issue, the repeal is required by state law and laws inconsistent with preeminent state laws have no place on the books.

Additionally, the Washoe County Shooting Range, a park facility, prohibits holstered firearms (carry as well as holster draws) except for law enforcement. Many ranges ban drawing and firing from holsters or require the rangemaster or safety officer to certify someone first. In and of itself, it is not an altogether bad regulation. What is inappropriate is extending distrust so far as to prohibit non-firing holstered handguns, effectively banning open carry.

Such a ban is dubiously legal as there is an exemption for shooting range regulations, but it should not extend any further than drawing and firing from the holster. Target practice can be separated from arriving and leaving the range. The concern is an inexperienced or careless shooter touching the trigger during the draw, but two permitted interactions (drawing at the beginning of the session and replacing at the end) is not statistically likely to result in a negligent discharge. Banning a holstered weapon entirely, especially one that never leaves the holster, is asinine and insulting to the firearm community.

Reno and Carson City are plastered with as many bad “no gun” signs as Clark County. Just because the issues are not as high-profile in your community as they are elsewhere in the state, the issues are there. We cannot stop telling government that it is wrong and seeking redress. In a nation under the rule of law, our laws must be fair and consistent.

If you have not yet done so, join our Facebook discussion group and stay abreast of the issues.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mossberg Shockwave Illegal in Nevada?

Courtesy of Mossberg
This is a revised and updated version.

The Nevada Firearms Coalition shared a warning stating that the Mossberg Shockwave, a pistol-type shotgun with a 14 inch barrel, might be illegal under state law. The matter is undermined at this time, but as examples from other states have shown, it will likely be found to be legal. 

This whole area of law is a mess. The Shockwave is taking advantage of an actual loophole in federal law. Short version, law enforcement may treat it as illegal at least for now. Make your dispositions accordingly.

But let’s delve a little deeper. How is this legal federally? It’s more than just a letter from the ATF.

18 USC 921 (the Gun Control Act) is where we start. As far as shotguns go (emphasis added): 
“(5) The term ‘shotgun’ means a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder and designed or redesigned and made or remade to use the energy of an explosive to fire through a smooth bore either a number of ball shot or a single projectile for each single pull of the trigger.
 “(6) The term ‘short-barreled shotgun’ means a shotgun having one or more barrels less than eighteen inches in length and any weapon made from a shotgun (whether by alteration, modification or otherwise) if such a weapon as modified has an overall length of less than twenty-six inches.” 
Note that (6)’s reference to a shotgun draws directly from (5)’s definition. Key are the words "intended to be fired from the shoulder,” which the Shockwave is not.

The National Firearms Act included short barreled rifles and shotguns as it originally sought to ban pistols and other easily concealable firearms. It was understood that if pistols and revolvers were illegal, long guns would be quickly cut down. The NFA (18 USC 5845) defines prohibited shotguns thusly: 
"The term 'firearm' means (1) a shotgun having a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length; (2) a weapon made from a shotgun if such weapon as modified has an overall length of less than 26 inches or a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length;" 
(1)'s definition of a shotgun comes from 921(c)(5), the key words being "intended to be fired from the shoulder," which the Shockwave is not. Under (2), the weapon's overall length exceeds 26 inches (26.37 inches, per the manufacturer), making the under 18 inch barrel legal. The Shockwave is made new, not from a shotgun (meaning not sawed-off).

921 defines a firearm as we understand the word: an explosion (gunpowder) makes a projectile fly. "The term 'firearm' means (A) any weapon (including a starter gun) which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive." So, because the Shockwave doesn't fall under any category neatly, it becomes a "Firearm" with a capitol "F" as there is no other term to call it.

So that’s how it’s legal under federal law. Let’s look at Nevada law. Per NRS 202.275:
“(b) ‘Short-barreled shotgun’ means:
(1) A shotgun having one or more barrels less than 18 inches in length; or
(2) Any weapon made from a shotgun, whether by alteration, modification or other means, with an overall length of less than 26 inches.”
Nevada law works differently. First, a shotgun is a "short-barreled shotgun" if the barrel is less than 18 inches (which is true for the Shockwave), or if someone cuts down a shotgun to be less than 26 inches overall. There is an exemption if you have a tax stamp from the ATF.

Now for the interesting kicker that I believe is ultimately in our favor: Nevada law does not define what a shotgun is. In looking for an actual definition, courts would likely have to default to federal law, which as we saw, does not define the Shockwave as a shotgun. Remember, a “shotgun” has to be intended to be fired from the shoulder; the Shockwave is intended to be fired off-hand.

The origin of the legislation is important as well. Short-barreled shotguns were outlawed under state law in 1977 by AB 459 because the ATF and US Attorney didn't have time to prosecute violations under federal law. The intention was not to go beyond federal law and the proposed law (now NRS 202.275) was "very close to federal law.” One could gather from that the intention was to simply duplicate federal law, not to create a new definition, so the federal loophole would apply to Nevada as well.

As far as the tax stamp exemption, the ATF would probably not grant a tax stamp because the Shockwave does not qualify as an NFA weapon. Just like the FBI wasn’t going to do private sale background checks for free, I doubt the helplessly overwhelmed NFA Branch is going to process tax stamps just for all six Nevadan’s that buy this range toy. Without a tax stamp, you can’t buy the gun. Without a tax stamp, you’re not exempt. That creates a contradiction, as the fed’s won’t do something Nevada is trying to require. Thus, you cannot be legally exempted in order to own this weapon in Nevada.

In a logical world, Nevada authorities draw from the federal definition and rely on the ATF’s clarification the weapon is illegal. Definitions are a big deal in court and to our benefit, the legislators left “shotgun” undefined under state law. It’s not like pornography where a you can’t define a shotgun, but you know it when you see it. Sorry, court doesn’t work that way (but broken judges do, unfortunately). So, again, in a logical world the federal definition wins out and I’m right, but that a nickel will leave me with a nickel.

As the Attorney General’s office said regarding Question 1, the law cannot create impossibilities. I’d suspect that we’d win any legal battles on this one, but who wants to be the test case? I’d like to believe this was just an error by the Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association, but it smacks of a political, anti-gun (specifically anti-scary gun) agenda. They must have a lawyer to look these things over.

It’s up to the Attorney General to help answer the question or at least get law enforcement to agree Nevada law is ambiguously in favor of the Shockwave being legal and that if the ATF is cool with it, Nevada should be too. Anyhow, there is no logical reason this gun or any short barreled gun should be regulated as an NFA item. This is a perfect example of why states have no business passing NFA-type laws. We’ll see this issue again with silencers if the Hearing Protection Act passes into law.

Should we at least honor the spirit of the law? No. Again, a short shotgun is not any functionally different than a handgun and was originally banned federally in 1934 for political reasons. Watch Karl and Ian demonstrate how ineffective this type of weapon really is. So loophole or not, the purpose behind the law is an empty one. Legislators also have an obligation to pass laws that make sense; by not defining a shotgun, they either meant the federal definition or made an amateur mistake. If a government is going to prohibit something, if it can't be morally correct all the time, it must be legally correct 100% of the time.



Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Facebook Discussion Group


We're proud to introduce our new Facebook discussion group, Nevada Carry! NevadaCarry.org was founded over three years ago to spread correct information about open carry. As we've grown, we have become the foremost place for knowledge on Nevada gun law and Second Amendment topics. Put plainly, no one else has done it better. As modest as we are, sometimes bragging isn't committing the sin of pride.

There has long been a dearth of information and collected knowledge in the gun community, often leading to myths and rumors. Truth comes out in drips and many questions are repeated simply because the only way to get an answer is to ask someone who knows. Nevada Carry is proud to have been the major driving influence in changing that in our state. When was the last time you heard open carry was illegal in North Las Vegas, for example?

Ask yourself, who in recent times has done more for Nevada gun owners as a whole than Nevada Carry?

Now there is a group where correct information and the institutional wisdom of Nevada Carry and the Nevada gun community can come together and be shared. This will be our primary forum for new information and communication with our fans and followers. Join the online community and help us grow into Nevada's more informed group of armed citizens. Share with your friends! We are stronger together and can't grow without your help.

Visit out group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/nevadacarriers/

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Reno and Carson City's No-Guns Signs


 Boy! Northern Nevada sure does have a lot of broken “no guns” signs! Well, to be fair, so does Southern Nevada, but the ratio of plastered buildings at least felt a little higher in Reno than it does in the Las Vegas area. I visited the area recently and was in awe of the natural and historic beauty of the area. One of my eyes was on history, while the other was on the Second Amendment landscape.

Everywhere I went, large signs prohibiting all firearms, openly carried or concealed, were on public buildings. As you know, only concealed firearm are prohibited in public (government) buildings in Nevada. Openly carried firearms are permitted by state law in all non-school or college/university facilities. However, I believe that the city of Henderson is the only municipality which has the correct signage on its buildings.

Being misleading, these absolutist “no guns” signs deter those who would openly carry legally, even if just shuffling their pistol from open to concealed for their visit to the public building. Instead of making the buildings more safe, the signs make them less safe. If I were a non-gun owner, I wonder if there is a reason that guns are so boldly prohibited inside and feel all the less comforted by them. Surely, there must have been some horrible incident to require garish signage.

In reality, the truth behind the signs is government control; officials don’t want armed staff and citizens inside. The signs are nothing more than an illogical expression of fear and misunderstanding. Government officials rarely take action to correct the incorrect signs; a Reno official admitted to one armed citizen that the city knew open carry was allowed, but wasn’t going to be correcting the signs. My own experience with state officials illustrated this governmental contemptuousness perfectly.

The Nevada State Museum in Carson City has a small, but impressive, collection of antique, historic, and rare firearms, including a Gatling gun. It too is plastered with “no guns” signs. After clearing the entry desk without trouble, after a minute or two I was contacted by staff who informed me about the signs. In fact, that’s how most “you can’t have a gun here” conversations begin. “We have ‘no gun’ signs on the door.” Well that’s nice… one thinks.

I informed the security officer of state law. He seemed a bit puzzled, but was very polite and genuinely willing to listen. He asked if I might explain it to his supervisor. Being concerned about education and conciliation, I agreed. The guard came back a few minutes later and told me the supervisor had looked into it (probably phoned the capitol police) and agreed with my assessment of open carry, which is also the opinion of the Legislature’s own attorneys. That was it, I went on with my visit.

A far different version of events than with the Las Vegas Clark County Library District (LVCCLD), to be sure.

In my follow-up to the facilities director, I gave my thanks to the professionalism of the staff and the outstanding way the issue was resolved. What I didn’t say was that had the state bothered to properly inform its security personnel on state law, none of this would have ever happened and the nice guard wouldn’t have been embarrassed by the whole thing. It is an obscure and counter-intuitive point of law (even California allows licensed CCW in most public buildings).
I pointed out that it was rather unfortunate that Nevada had placed misguided suspicion on armed citizens—especially licensed concealed carriers with their training, background checks, and whatnot—and looked forward to the day when our legislators understood that legally armed citizens are an asset to public safety, and not a liability to be feared.

Washoe County Courthouse
I received a terse reply from the museum director, Myron Freedman, who said that “Posting is required.” I don’t get the feeling that Mr. Freedman is all that keen on understanding or citizens standing up against petty bureaucracy. Freedman, a native of Nevada, has had a career with museums in notoriously anti-gun climates such as California and Chicago. Posting is required, but that is a topic for a later post.

What armed citizens want is to be able to defend themselves wherever evil might strike, which can literally be anywhere at any time. Of course, there is a limit to this; none of us seriously want to be able to carry inside prisons, for example. Yet what makes the Nevada State Museum immune from violence? How will the unarmed guards stop a team of determined robbers from making off with the silver, guns, and artifacts? Will the signage leap down and tackle a deranged gunman who picked the building at random?

 There is nothing inherently safe about a museum or the majority of most public buildings. Even if the risk of violence is extraordinarily low inside, why should I be disarmed going to and from? A low risk of violence is often used to discredit the need for carry inside prohibited buildings, but that same low risk of violence is justification for the lack of any need to post the signs in the first place. “No guns” signs are not about safety, they are about the comfort of government officials.

 Among my open carry travels, this was the only negative incident. Hell, in Virginia City the only thing that stood out was a plastic holster and a Glock instead of leather and a revolver. Up and down the state, urban and rural, the responses were either positive or non-existent. During my photography session outside the Capitol complex, no one took exception to me at all. Not having business inside, I didn’t try to force the issue with the Capitol Police.

Ultimately, what divides the Nevada open carry “movement” from other open carry movements is that by and large, open carry is a lifestyle choice, not a political statement. We who openly carry generally don’t go out seeking confrontation. The Flores library open carry case came about simply because Mrs. Flores carries openly every day. This is our strength; since this is a part of our regular lives, when an incident occurs it has far more impact than it were a stunt. Stunts turn people off to open carry. If a test case is needed, we can do it simply by being ourselves.

Aspersions about our intentions dog open carriers the way that concealed carried was demonized as a prelude to murder a hundred years ago. Some would call us paranoid for carrying, but couldn’t a similar accusation be leveled at people with dashcams? I didn’t feel any less safe in downtown Reno than I do in downtown Las Vegas, but it sure was nice knowing I could handle anything serious, should it come up. And that’s what everyday carry is about: being prepared to shoot your way out of a mass shooting, robbery, etc. One never truly knows where violence will strike and there is no soft security measure that will keep people safe.

In time, things will change. A favorable ruling in the Flores case over preemption will go along way at smoothing out wrinkles with local agencies. We must be patient, but if the many examples of similar cases from across the country tell us anything, we will be victorious. The larger battle is changing minds within government. Legislators do not need pushed into creating bad legislation, like the malleable Sen. Denis who tried to change the law because LVCCLD didn’t like it. What we as the armed public must do is help change the minds of government employees.

Employees of public buildings are vulnerable to violence. No one deserves to be disarmed at their workplace unless it is absolutely necessary for other safety considerations. Neither should they be afraid of legally armed citizens patronizing government facilities, which exist solely to serve citizens. We must win the employees to our side and deny legislators and anti-gun administrators that constituency at the same time we convince administrators, who might be on the fence, that there is no danger from the legally armed.

Hostility will not win us anything. If we create enemies instead of allies, we face an uphill battle. Let us investigate and educate, winning supporters and changing the decades old fearful mindset that discriminates against law-abiding, legally armed citizens.