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Gun registration

To buy a handgun from a licensed dealer — or even to reclaim it from a pawnshop — Nevada residents have to either show they’ve gone through the rigorous background check required to carry a state concealed firearms permit, or else submit at the time of each acquisition to a new, federally required background check.

The firearm’s serial number is thus linked to the buyer’s name. When firearms are found to have been used in a crime, dealers often hear from police, seeking help in tracking the chain of ownership.

But Clark County has long enforced its own handgun registration ordinance. Local licensed dealers also issue the Southern Nevada purchaser a “blue card” as evidence the firearm has been registered with Las Vegas police. Those arriving from out of town are expected to go in and register their handguns — with no grace period.

Those working to establish a new county shooting park soon determined out-of-town groups are going to be less willing to come here for competitive events if they could face arrest unless they go through the cumbersome process of registering their weapons with Las Vegas police — in advance, presumably — for a mere weekend visit. There were also concerns that the firearms brought here for the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trades (SHOT) show — due to return in 2008 — might fall under the registration requirement.

So state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, submitted Senate Bill 92, which would grant tourists and other visitors a 60-day grace period before they’d be required to register their handguns. It also includes a 72-hour registration grace period for Clark County residents after privately purchasing a pistol.

Sen. Lee’s bill passed the Senate 20-1 and is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Governmental Affairs Committee this morning. It would be better if lawmakers made a clear statement freeing law-abiding Clark County residents from Metro’s notoriously unreliable pistol registration database — obviously, crooks don’t register their guns anyway — eliminating the entire “blue card” system, which has in fact been redundant since the introduction of the federal Brady law.

Sen. Lee, though, says these grace periods are “as big a bite” as he can get at present — and they’re a step in the right direction. But Clark County residents can perfectly well ask why tourists will now be considered more trustworthy to carry “unregistered” firearms than our own citizens.

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