Metro resists handgun-registration program transparency
If the Las Vegas Metro Police Department responded to 911 calls the way it responds to public-records requests, the Bellagio Bandit would've had time to take in the "O" Show, tour the art gallery and still escape on his motorcycle.
Multiple organizations, including Nevada Journal, have struggled obtaining public records from Metro's Public Information department regarding its handgun registration program.
According to NRS 239.0107, a government entity must respond to the requestor within five business days — either allowing inspection of the relevant records or providing notice in writing of "a date and time after which the public book or record will be available for the person to inspect or copy."
In February 2006, State Sen. John Lee (D-Clark) wrote then-sheriff Bill Young, inquiring about the effectiveness of the handgun-registration program and its potential negative effect on the new Clark County Shooting Park.
According to Lee, after about a month Young eventually met with him and heard Lee's concerns about the program. No further action, however, was taken by Metro.
Three years later, Lee inquired again, writing to Sheriff Doug Gillespie with questions about the cost effectiveness and the necessity of the registration program. According to Lee, Metro never responded to that inquiry.
"I don't think they really assess anything," said Lee, adding that Metro has indicated the problem may lie with the multiple, decentralized police-station locations where people can currently register their firearms.
In late 2009, the National Rifle Association inquired about Metro's gun-registration program. The NRA sent Metro 29 questions on topics ranging from the handgun program's origins to the number of gun registrations on file.
Initially it took a month and the involvement of Sen. Lee and Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins for the NRA to receive a response from Metro.
Even then, Metro's response consisted of generic answers with little data, but it did close by inviting follow-up questions. Carrie Herbertson, the NRA state liaison for Nevada, then sent Metro 12 follow-up questions on Feb. 3, 2010. Now, 10 months later, Herbertson says she and the NRA have yet to receive a response to those follow-up questions.
"I'm not accusing them of anything, but if you're going to say [the registration program is] an effective method, show me," said Herbertson.
Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid also sought information from Metro. As Nevada Journal reported previously, on Oct. 11, 2010 Reid wrote County Manager Virginia Valentine, requesting an audit of the program.
A spokeswoman from Reid's office stated it was their understanding that the County Auditor has the examination scheduled, but Reid's office has yet to receive a report. A spokesperson for the Auditor's Office says the audit is scheduled for 2011, but did not specify when.
Nevada Journal has also experienced slow goings with Metro. After submitting a request for department communications with the NRA, Nevada Journal received a letter from Metro on Nov. 17 stating, "...it will take at least 30 days to compile the public records responsive to your request." Nevada Journal received the confirmation letter from Metro within the five business days set by statute, but this was after an earlier request was misplaced due to the Veterans Day holiday.
According to Metro Sergeant Chuck Callaway, he could not confirm whether 30 days processing is standard procedure for Metro's Public Information department, but insisted Metro is willing to listen to issues regarding the transparency of the registration program.
"We want to do what's in the public's interest," said Callaway.
For additional coverage regarding Clark County's handgun program, see "State politicians take aim at Clark County handgun registration."