The debate over changing Las Vegas gun laws and the guns laws in Nevada covers, like the desert outside Las Vegas, a lot of ground.
On one side are individual rights and freedoms and the laissez-faire spirit of the mythical Old West. On the other side are modern concerns such as suicide prevention and protecting women from violence. Sometimes both come in to play, as when Linda Cavazos of the group Moms Demand Action was quoted by Guns.com as saying
in support of background checks, “This isn’t a partisan issue – it’s about respecting the Second Amendment and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals to save lives.”
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The issue is not simple. In fact, the numbers show a distinct paradox. Despite the relative ease of getting a permit to carry a concealed gun in Nevada, the per-capita concealed-carry rate in Nevada’s two largest counties is “close, if even a bit lower” than in other “shall issue” states, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
More people per 1,000 have guns in Salt Lake County (Utah) and Miami-Dade County (Florida), the newspaper reports.
Nevadans who try to see both sides might agree with Quinn Jonas, a student government senator at the University of Nevada, who told the Nevada Sagebrush blog,
“The original argument [used in the last legislative session] that [carrying weapons on campus] enables individuals to have effective means of self defense does have some merit. However, there are certain issues with introducing firearms to campuses, where the second leading cause of death among college students is suicide.”
But most people in the debate are on one side or the other, as was Annette Magnus, executive director of ProgressNow Nevada.
She said, “There is no sugarcoating it, Nevada is failing to protect women from domestic abusers and stalkers by not closing dangerous loopholes in our laws, and Nevadans need to understand the facts on the lethal combination of guns and domestic abuse. Action must be taken to reduce deadly gun violence against women.”
Even some gun-rights advocates think there are some folks who just shouldn’t have guns. Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young, who supports expanded background checks, told KLAS-TV,
“I've seen probably hundreds of crimes committed with firearms by people that shouldn't have had firearms. Criminals find a way to break, I mean they're going to break the law, but it will prevent some, a significant amount.”
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Preventing suicides by the use of guns also is an issue, considering that over 51 percent of suicides in Nevada involve the use of a gun, according to the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention. Nevada is also one of five states in which gun suicides outnumber roadway deaths, according to a comparison of the most recently available statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Says Richard Egan, in charge of outreach for the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention, “Any time you take guns out of the wrong hands, that can only help.”
As far back as 2010, John Hambrick, a famously pro-gun legislator and former law officer who wanted to do away with Clark County’s registration requirements, told the Las Vegas Sun
concealed guns weren’t for everyone. He said, “Any person who says they never have that concern (about a weapon being spotted) should not have a permit. You should always be aware of your surroundings and be concerned a misunderstanding could occur.”
Citizens also have weighed in on the debate. Ellis Davis, a retired corrections officer who was waiting outside a gun show in Reno, told a McClatchy News Service reporter,
"It's not me shooting and robbing people. It's the criminals. We've got a right to protect our homes and our families." Agreeing with Davis was fellow Reno gun show attendee Joe Potseaga, who told McClatchy, “We love our country dearly. But it's none of the federal government's business knowing what kinds of guns people have."
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