News reports of murders, robberies and home invasions can prompt one to buy a gun. It's one's right to own firearms.
The Gun Store, 2900 E. Tropicana Ave., is one of many gun dealerships that offers instruction on how to care for and handle a gun. Gwen Eaton, certified National Rifle Association instructor, has been teaching gun safety classes since 2005.
Nevada residents can opt for a concealed carry weapon, or CCW. The process includes a criminal history check and submitting fingerprints to the state of Nevada and the FBI. The application fee is about $100.
To obtain a permit, a mandatory, free all-day class is offered three times a week at The Gun Store and averages 150 attendees a month, 75 percent of them men, said Bob Irwin, The Gun Store owner, who spent nearly 28 years teaching at police academies.
"It's not a safety class, it's a 'shoot, don't shoot' class," he said. "The safety class (tells) how not to shoot yourself, a good community service class. The CCW class is much more involved, about when you can use force against a human being and how to do that tactically and legally, which is why we don't let gang bangers in that class; we don't want to make them better shooters."
Interacting with others outside the home does not mean pulling out your CCW weapon to settle an argument or counter the actions of a bully, he stressed.
"We encourage people to disengage, if at all possible," Irwin said. "That's the first step in self-defense. The equipment required in the first step of self-defense is a good set of running shoes. Then we talk about verbal warnings and so forth and when they work and when they don't and the liability that occurs after that. There's a misconception by the public, probably put out by the gun magazines. They run stories all the time that say, 'Mrs. Jones, age 62, at 3 a.m. had somebody break in her house. And she fired one shot, and the guy died and the police came and said, 'Wow, that was good shooting,' you know, and, 'have a nice day.' "
Irwin interviewed nearly 100 people who had lethally used their firearms in self-defense . He said that many were overcome with feelings of remorse and that some later dealt with the classic psychological path to come to grips with taking a life.
If someone who is armed is pulled over for a traffic violation, what should one do if there's a handgun in the car?
"We would encourage any driver who has a weapon, either concealed on their person or in the car, to tell the officer," Henderson Police Department spokesman Keith Paul said.
The Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida has sparked a national debate over that state's "stand your ground" law.
Harry Ben-Zvi is marketing director for Thoroughbred Management, 2555 W. Cheyenne Ave. in North Las Vegas, which manages 55 communities with 10,000 homes. He estimated that no more than 20 percent had Neighborhood Watch programs.
"The problem with Vegas as a whole is it's very transient with ... owners that own multiple properties which they rent out, which is not necessarily conducive to Neighborhood Watch," he said.
He said any homeowners association resolution governing what actions Neighborhood Watch members could and couldn't take, such as carrying guns, would "ultimately have to be compliant with any local state or federal statutes."
Police departments frown on civilians taking matters into their own hands, as in the Martin case.
"We would encourage people participating in a Neighborhood Watch program to be vigilant in their neighborhood and be good witnesses," Paul said. "We do not encourage Neighborhood Watch participants to contact suspicious persons or investigate suspicious situations; rather, they should contact the police. If residents see something in their neighborhood they think is suspicious, they should call the police and not approach."
Last year, Nevada lawmakers drafted legislation that states that a person can use deadly force in self-defense without retreating if the person is not the original aggressor and has the right to be at the location.
The legislation also notes that the person acting in self-defense should "not actively engage in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used."
Eaton estimated that 25 percent who take the store's free gun safety class are first-time owners or those thinking about buying a gun. About half of the attendees are women. A 2009 study conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation found that 80 percent of female gun-buyers who responded bought a gun for self-defense, followed by 35 percent for target practice and 24 percent for hunting.
The class also sees juveniles ordered there by the court and people who want a refresher course. The number of attendees varies from five to 30. This day, there were nine adults and six teens. Numbers tend to spike, driven by current events.
"I get (more) interest whenever we have home invasions, and people are being robbed on the street," Eaton said. "Probably 80 percent go on to take the concealed weapons class."
National events can drive interest , too. The 2008 presidential election resulted in an increase in sales at the store by 75 percent to 80 percent, she said, in fear that the Second Amendment would be eliminated.
The two-hour safety class outlined the basics of handgun ownership. Three rules were stressed throughout the class:
n Always keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction. If inside or near a building, be especially careful.
"A bullet will go through six walls of modern-day construction," Eaton said. "Sheet rock will not stop a bullet."
n Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until you're just about to shoot. The trigger guard is the half oval of metal one's finger has to enter to engage the trigger.
n Ensure that your firearm is unloaded unless you're about to shoot. Transporting a loaded gun, even if the gun safety is engaged, is a bad decision. Gun safety features have been known to fail .
"You are responsible for every round that goes off in your gun," Eaton said.
Brooklyn, N.Y., native Falcony Triunfo took the gun safety class and brought his 14-year-old daughter. He planned to buy a gun for personal safety and for his security job and wanted her to know how to handle it.
"They're always going to be part of society," he said of handguns. "I feel like as an American, it's one of our rights, the right to bear arms. In New York, they're really restrictive not like out here in the West. I feel that as an American it's our right to bear arms and protect ourselves. I'm not kill crazy. I'm not going to kill somebody just because they look at me wrong. At the same time, you've got to be able to defend yourself."
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 387-2949.