Nevada’s Unfortunate Export

Guns In the last published annual report from the Nevada Department of Corrections FY 2013 (pdf) we discover that 24.87% of the men admitted into the Nevada prison system were being incarcerated for drug related offenses. Property crimes accounted for 24.24% of the admissions, sex crimes for 7.91%, and crimes of violence 36.79%.  DUIs and “other” accounted for approximately 6.2%.  Various trafficking crimes are included in Category A and Category B felony provisions in Nevada. 

A person can get into major trouble under Nevada law, as in Category A felony categorization territory, for trafficking in Schedule I drugs (28 grams or more) or trafficking in Schedule II drugs (400 grams).  Trafficking in persons is covered in Category B felonies, carrying penalties of from 1 to 20 years.  Sex trafficking can yield sentences between 3 to 20 years, with no probation or suspended sentences if the conviction involves a child.  What kind of trafficking won’t get a person into the Nevada prison system?

Gun trafficking.   Nevada does have some statutes pertaining to the transfer and sale of firearms. NRS 202.310 does provide that: “Any person in this state who sells or barters to a child who is under the age of 18 years, with reckless disregard of whether the child is under the age of 18 years, or with knowledge or reason to know that the child is under the age of 18 years, a pistol, revolver or a firearm capable of being concealed upon the person is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.”  We might want to come back to this provision sometime to discuss what constitutes “recklessness” in this instance, but for now it’s enough to know that it is unlawful to sell a gun to someone under the age of 18 without parental supervision.  There are other classifications of persons to whom firearms shall not be sold in this state.

NRS 202.362  Sale or disposal of firearm or ammunition to certain persons prohibited; penalty; exceptions. 1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3, a person within this State shall not sell or otherwise dispose of any firearm or ammunition to another person if he or she has actual knowledge that the other person:  (a) Is under indictment for, or has been convicted of, a felony in this or any other state, or in any political subdivision thereof, or of a felony in violation of the laws of the United States of America, unless the other person has received a pardon and the pardon does not restrict his or her right to bear arms;  (b) Is a fugitive from justice;  (c) Has been adjudicated as mentally ill or has been committed to any mental health facility; or (d) Is illegally or unlawfully in the United States.  2.  A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000. (emphasis added)

The requirement that the seller have “actual knowledge” of a person’s status with regard to a gun sale, obviously the “knowledge” of a seller is diminished by the fact that Nevada doesn’t require universal background checks, but the “actual” knowledge is further restrained by the fact that Nevada applies no penalties to those who lie in order to purchase guns.  Washington, Oregon, and California have criminal penalties for “buying a gun  using false information,” Nevada does not. [TTG] [Wash. 9.41.113] [Oregon 116.470] [AG CA pdf]

Indeed, Nevada has NO statutes which establish criminal penalties for buying a gun on behalf of someone who may not legally purchase one otherwise;  as seen above, the individual who buys the gun may be prosecuted but not the seller.  Nevada has NO statute(s) preventing someone from selling a firearm to some buyer who has a record of serious misdemeanors – only felonies will do.  And, since Nevada has no universal background check law there are no criminal penalties for selling a firearm to someone without having made a proper background check.  The result of all this?

As of 2009, Nevada had the 9th highest rate of “crime gun exports” in the country.  making Nevada a “net exporter” of guns used in serious crimes in other states – 781 such guns were imported into Nevada and 808 were “exported” to other states.  [TTG]  But! 204 crime guns came from California. Yes, and California has a total population of 38,802,500 while Nevada has 2,839,099. [Census] We have 7% of California’s population and we’re doing more than our share of exporting weapons used in crimes.

Making gun trafficking even more likely is the simple fact that Nevada has no restrictions on the sales of multiple guns. [SGL]  We know the exportation of “crime guns” drops when restrictions are placed on multiple sales because it worked in Virginia between 1993 and 2012. During that period Virginia imposed its “one gun per month” rule, and the odds the gun was purchased in that state (as compared to other southeastern states) dropped by 71% of guns recovered in NY, 72% for guns recovered in Massachusetts, and 66% for guns recovered in NY, NJ, CT, RI, and MA combined. [SGL]

Nevada would be a much better neighbor if the next session of the State Legislature would give serious consideration to:

  • Imposing criminal penalties for buying firearms for individuals who are not legally allowed to possess them.
  • Imposing criminal penalties on those who seek to purchase firearms in this state who provide false information to the seller.
  • Requiring universal background checks for the sale of all handguns.
  • Imposing criminal penalties for those who deliberately sell firearms without conducting a background check on the purchaser.
  • Limiting the number of firearms which can be purchased in any single transaction.

Trafficking guns should at least carry some of the same penalties we apply to those entering our prison system convicted of drug and sex trafficking?

References: Department of Corrections, State of Nevada, “Annual Statistical Abstract” (pdf) FY 2013.  Category A felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf), Category B felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category C felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Category D felonies, NV Legislature, (pdf); Category E felonies, NV Legislature (pdf); Nevada Revised Statutes 202;  Office of the Attorney General, State of California, “California Firearms Laws Summary,” (pdf);  Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Multiple Purchases, Sales of Firearms Policy;”

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