While gun owners await Gov. Brian Sandoval’s pledged veto on a bill requiring background checks for private sales like laws in other states, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department statistics show a spike in local firearms registration.
Just nine months into the 2012-13 fiscal year, police registered more than 68,000 handguns. That’s a 25 percent increase over 54,000 registrations logged the prior full year.
That means there are 1.2 million registered handguns in the county, according to the police department. Rifles and shotguns aren’t subject to registration in Nevada. Only Clark County requires handgun registration.
The department won’t speculate on what’s driving the growth. But police issued a news release about the numbers this week and made gun safety a discussion topic at their recent First Tuesday open house talks.
This week’s accidental shooting death of Las Vegas seventh-grader Brooklynn Mohler also was a reminder that gun owners should keep their weapons secure.
“It’s a tragic example of what can happen,” said Las Vegas police spokesman Larry Hadfield. “Preferably you should have your guns in a safe, but not everybody can afford that. But most guns come with trigger locks when you buy them.”
Clark County Shooting Complex administrator Stephen Carmichael said traffic — and talk — at his facility show why folks are buying more guns and ammunition.
“Some of it is kind of panic buying and thinking there will be new legislation that makes it harder to purchase guns in the future,” Carmichael said. The mass shootings at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., combined with political wrangling over gun control, create a sense of anxiety for many gun owners. As an example, Carmichael said, the Shooting Complex received 600 boxes of 9mm ammo on May 3. Customers were limited to buying three boxes in a single purchase. By May 19, every box — 30,000 rounds — had been sold. And the shop is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
On Thursday, Jennifer Pfahler of Henderson was checking out 9mm pistols at The Gun Store on East Tropicana Avenue. She said she’ll feel safer once she’s bought one.
“Nothing sparked it,” Pfahler said, specifically steering clear of politics. “I had one a long time ago. I’m just doing this to have a gun.”
Another Gun Store shopper, who wanted to be identified only as Gabriel, said he was looking for a gun that would travel better on his motorcycle. He’s had unexpected run-ins with other travelers as he’s made his way through Arizona and California. The police might not get there fast enough for him, he said.
“I trust me,” he said. “I don’t wait for someone to come in for my rescue.”
Gun Store owner Bob Irwin said he’s got back-orders on guns, and ammunition prices are up because of copper shortages. He doesn’t mince words when he brings up the gun-buying “frenzy.” He blames President Barack Obama, even though the U.S. Senate rejected a federal background check bill in April.
Now Irwin is awaiting Sandoval’s veto on a bill requiring private-sale background checks in Nevada and similar to laws in California and Colorado. The Legislature approved the bill, introduced by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, last week.
Background checks wouldn’t have prevented the mass shootings in other states, Irwin said, and the government only wants records of who owns guns because it eventually will try to take them.
Contact reporter Adam Kealoha Causey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0361.