Lack of audits, cooperation obstruct challenges
Lawmakers have taken shots at the Clark County handgun registration program, but so far all of them have missed.
State politicians on both sides of the political aisle are critical of the Clark County’s firearm program that requires gun owners to register their handgun with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD). Clark County is the only county in the state requiring such registration.
“It’s a law nobody wants,” said State Senator John Lee (D-Clark). “It’s not cost effective and they [Sheriff’s department] just do it because they’ve always done it.”
In 1989, the Nevada Legislature passed Nevada Revised Statute 244.364, establishing a uniform state law for all firearms in the state. At that time, the pre-existing Clark County registration program was grandfathered into the statute.
According to the LVMPD’s website, Clark handgun owners living in the county for 60 days must register their handguns and purchasers must register their new handgun within 72 hours. Additionally, the registration program requires owners to submit to a background check.
State Assemblyman Ed Goedhart (R-Clark), who has submitted legislation regarding firearm possession in state parks, believes the Clark program violates not only the Nevada Constitution but the United States Constitution.
“Anything that infringes on the Second Amendment is wrong,” Goedhart said. “With the [registration] program, you’re guilty until proven innocent.”
Lee has challenged the program multiple times. During the 2007 legislative session, he introduced a Bill Draft Request (BDR) that would have eliminated the grandfather clause, and wrote a letter to the LVMPD requesting justification of the program. However, the proposal was never brought to vote and Lee’s letter was ignored.
“It’s a service with no service,” Lee said. “It’s turf building on the [LVMPD’s] part and we’ve never received back any financial data on the program.”
NPRI also struggled obtaining information from the LVMPD. After following up on an ignored public records request, NPRI was transferred between four departments before the LVMPD acknowledged receipt of the request.
In October, Clark County Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid asked the Clark County Manager’s office to arrange an audit of the registration program. He requested information on program appropriations and objective data indicating the program’s success, among other items. As of the time of this report, the audit is on the “to-do” list of the county auditor.
According to Metro Sergeant Chuck Callaway, a quality assurance audit has not been performed on the registration program in years nor was an audit planned for the near future.
With or without an audit, some state lawmakers remain skeptical of the program and its effectiveness.
“It’s important to lessen restrictions on law-abiding citizens,” said former Assemblyman and State Senator James Settelmeyer (R-Capital). “Criminals who are irresponsible with guns aren’t going to register them anyway.”
Settelmeyer submitted a BDR for the upcoming legislative session regarding concealed firearms permits. And Goedhart says that, while budgeting will be a top item in the session, if citizens take enough active interest in gun laws, proposals such as his, Settelemeyer’s, and Lee’s may see light.
“At the end of the day, we’re all public servants,” Goedhart said. “If grassroots efforts generate a loud enough discussion, lawmakers will listen.”