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Court decision may not affect Nevada

While historic on a national level, Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Second Amendment will have little or no effect on Nevada gun owners, law enforcement officials and experts said.

Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie said department lawyers told him the ruling would "not have an effect" on how the Metropolitan Police Department does its job.

Nevada doesn’t restrict the use of handguns in the home, and Nevadans aren’t required to lock or disassemble a gun when it’s inside the home.

The Supreme Court struck down the District of Columbia ban on handguns in the home, as well as its requirement that firearms be equipped with trigger locks or kept disassembled.

"It doesn’t seem to me that there will be … much that will change in terms of Nevada," UNLV criminal justice professor Bill Sousa said. "Nevada is already a right-to-carry state, and obtaining a handgun in this state is still relatively easy."

The Supreme Court upheld the right for jurisdictions to require handguns be registered, as is the case in Clark County but not in the rest of Nevada.

Nye County Sheriff Tony DeMeo said the ruling would only affect places with far more restrictive gun laws than Nevada has, such as the District of Columbia and Chicago.

The ruling was praised by Nevada’s Congressional delegation.

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the decision protects an individual’s gun rights while allowing for "reasonable public safety measures," according to an aide.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., said the ruling marked "an historic day in our country" by upholding "the right of an individual to bear arms."

Republican Reps. Dean Heller and Jon Porter in February signed onto a "friend of the court" brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the District of Columbia’s gun ban. Rep. Shelley Berkley said the ruling balanced the rights of gun owners while still addressing public safety.

The ruling, however, didn’t go far enough, said Bob Smith, president of the Nevada State Rifle and Pistol Association, a non-profit affiliate of the Nevada Rifle Association.

"Although they (the court) did affirm the right of a person to own a gun, they also said there could be reasonable restrictions," Smith said. "Who knows what that means? What’s reasonable? To liberals, taking away all the guns is reasonable."

The city of North Las Vegas has an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to have a firearm in a motor vehicle.

North Las Vegas police spokesman Mark Hoyt said Thursday’s ruling wouldn’t affect the ordinance. "We have a problem in the valley with guns, and this is our way of trying to deal with it," Hoyt said.

The issue of whether stricter gun laws lead to less crime has been hotly debated, Sousa said.

The bulk of research has pointed to lower availability of guns leading to lower crime rates, he said. But some places with extreme gun restrictions, such as the District of Columbia, have had some of the highest rates of violence in the nation, Sousa said.

Gillespie said there needs to be a balance between Second Amendment rights and gun regulations.

"I don’t think we can ignore the fact that handguns have become readily available and are used by criminals much more frequently than we’ve seen in years past," Gillespie said.

The recent shooting at Bob Baskin Park is evidence of the widespread availability of guns, he said.

On June 8, 21-year-old Jessie James Cole fired a handgun that was registered to him out of the window of his car at a group of people in the park, according to authorities. An 18-year-old man died immediately after being shot in the face. A 19-year-old man died early Wednesday morning.

Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

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