Many observers felt the October mass shooting in Las Vegas would trigger stronger federal laws dealing with gun control. Instead, the opposite happened as Washington legislators sought to end the patch-quilt of laws varying by state.
Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017
Just three months following the mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas, federal legislation regarding concealed carry has not appeared. While the tragedy starts to fade out of public consciousness, many policies are returning to the safety of the NRA as they wait for their next assignment.
The shooting by Stephen Paddock saw 58 die and over 500 injured. According to law enforcement, Paddock owned over 40 guns in a variety of scales and calibres at the time of the shooting. Paddock was well within his rights to openly carry weapons but would have required a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Even with Nevada’s Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) permit laws, it would have been simple for Paddock to have obtained one.
Under previous legislation, it would have been unlawful to bring even a single handgun into Illinois, New York, and numerous other states. National legislators just changed that with new laws, written by the National Rifle Association, to make it easier for individuals to carry concealed weapons nationally. So someone who gets a permit in a semi-lax state like Nevada can take it, hidden, into any other state.
Federal regulations now permit anybody with a CCW in one state to walk into a restaurant in another with a handgun – concealed or not – and local law enforcement can’t do anything. Former MIT student, Nicolai Mork, was arrested in April, 2017 for having ‘weapons of mass destruction’ as well as having firearms with altered or obliterated serial numbers. “The new set of laws wouldn’t have stopped Mr. Mork from allegedly crossing state lines with explosives or illegal weapons,” said Nicholas Wooldridge, a noted Las Vegas criminal defense attorney. “The laws are only as good as the people and processes in place to enforce them.”
The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 takes precedence over laws in states which permit just those individuals with CCW permits in the state to lawfully transport firearms within state borders. State level CCW laws were not created equal. Nevada, for example, had one of the most lax CCW laws in the country. Anyone 21 or over – who did not have a felony against them – was eligible to get a permit. New York had some of the stricter laws. Now, those laws appear to be moot.
“Requiring states with relatively strong requirements to follow the recipe-for-disaster of other states is inspired lunch,” wrote the Las Vegas Sun’s Editorial Board on December 11.
Nevada’s Gun-show Loophole Closed And Re-Opened
Following the October massacre in Las Vegas, observers began to wonder if legislators would finally tighten laws regulating gun sales and background checks. In fact, prominent bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and House talked about legislation to ban bump stocks, the device the Vegas shooter used.
In 2016, Nevada voters passed a universal background check measure by a narrow margin. The state’s Attorney General, Adam Laxalt, chose not to enforce the background check requirement, calling it unenforceable.
The measure asked state resident to vote on their desire to have “universal background checks.” As it previously stood, a person had to undergo a background check if they wanted to purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. If the individual wanted to buy a gun from a private seller, or at a gun show, they didn’t.
The ballot measure expanded that system to all kinds of gun sales and would have closed the so-called “gun show loophole.”
What is a “concealed firearm?”
A “concealed firearm” is a handgun carried by a person in such a way to not be visible by ordinary observation. Also included are handguns hidden inside clothing, a backpack, purse or other item being carried.
An application for a CCW permit may be approved if these requirements are met
- The person applying must be at least 21,
- The person applying must not be under a prohibition of owning a firearm,
- A pre-approved firearm safety course must be completed
- A CCW application must be made through the nearest sheriff’s office, which might take up to six months to process the petition. The permit, once approved is valid for five years. Las Vegas has a $100 application fee, and the permit itself is $60.
Some states, such as New York, have stricter laws while others have less stringent criteria. Nevertheless, with the passage of the new federal statute, issuing permits to carry concealed weapons is taken away from the realm of state legislatures.
Proponents of the federal change say their intention is protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners and they should be entitled to transport weapons across state lines without risking legal problems.
That pretty well sums up the position of the reciprocity law’s proponents.
Another problem proponents haven’t addressed is the law’s requirement to remove the ability to obtain a state-level background check from the previous procedures.
Adam Laxalt, Nevada’s attorney general, said, “The new law was written so dealers cannot access Nevada’s system for background checks.” “Anyone wanting a background check as part of a gun purchase must rely solely on federal systems.”
And everyone knows how uneven government efficiency can be.