October 2, 2017 12:30 pm
Updated: October 2, 2017 4:16 pm

Las Vegas shooting: Nevada has some of the most relaxed gun laws in America

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The deadliest mass shooting in modern American history was carried out Sunday night in a state that has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country.

The shooter, identified by police as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, opened fire from the upper floors of the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino in Las Vegas around 10 p.m. local time, resulting in the deaths of at least 58 people and the injury of over 500 others.

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He then reportedly turned a gun on himself.

The state constitution in Nevada gives citizens like Paddock “the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes.”


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Paddock would not have been breaking any laws by openly carrying a gun into the casino, as open carry is permitted in the state. However, most casinos in Las Vegas may ask you to leave if you are touting a firearm — let alone nearly a dozen.

As is the case with most hotels, however, Paddock would likely have been able to bring the guns undetected to his room without being searched or questioned.

Before carrying out the massacre, Paddock could have purchased his firearms (there were at least eight to 10 in his room, according to officials) without a permit, and without registering them with the state or holding a state-issued gun license. None of those is required for gun owners in Nevada.

In fact, the only thing you need a permit for is carrying a concealed weapon.

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If there were fully-automatic weapons (machine guns) in Paddock’s arsenal, they would also have been legal, as long as they were made or imported before 1986, were registered, and adhered to all federal laws. These types of guns are rare, however, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

A federal ban on assault weapons enacted in 1994 expired a decade later, in 2004.

There would have been no limit on the number of guns Paddock could own, and no limit on the number of bullets each magazine could hold.

Background checks and exceptions

Anyone buying a gun from a licensed retailer in Nevada is subject to a background check. But anyone buying a gun privately (online or in person) from another gun owner normally has no background check done at all, in spite of an effort to implement that requirement last year.

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In November 2016, voters in Nevada passed Question 1, a resolution calling for background checks through a licensed gun dealer for all sales in the state, by the thinnest of margins. But local authorities said it would be unenforceable due to a lack of co-operation from the FBI in administering the expanded checks.

Nevada, like most states, does have a long list of exceptions for gun ownership. A resident cannot own or carry a firearm if they have been convicted (in any state) of a misdemeanour crime of domestic violence or any felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of over one year.

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The same goes for a fugitive from justice, anyone under 18 years of age, any unlawful user of a controlled substance (yes, even marijuana), anyone committed to a mental health facility by a U.S. court, anyone pleading guilty but mentally ill in court, anyone found guilty but mentally ill in court, anyone acquitted by reason of insanity, or anyone who is in the United States illegally.

The laws next door

Nevada’s relatively permissive gun laws are all the more striking when you consider that its next-door neighbour, California, has some of the tightest firearms regulations in the United States.

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Among other things, California requires all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer and for the purchaser to be subject to a background check.

The state has banned most assault weapons and .50 calibre rifles and forbids the sale, transfer, manufacture, and possession of large capacity magazines (over 10 rounds). Anyone buying a gun needs a Firearm Safety Certificate, which requires passing a written test.

There is a 10-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of any gun.

The state also has some of the broadest powers for seizing weapons in America. In early 2016, for instance, California enacted a statute giving police or family members the option to petition the courts to seize guns and ammunition from someone they think poses a threat.

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