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The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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Despite the Constitution, only in Vermont (and now Alaska) do Americans not need to fear arrest and jail if they carry a concealed firearm without a government “permit.”

So, wishing to do their part to keep the crime rate down (John Lott and Prof. David Mustard having proven that crime rates drop in every jurisdiction that “allows civilians” to carry firearms), some 8,450 residents of Clark County (Las Vegas) -- about 14,000 Nevadans, statewide -- have gone through the onerous process of acquiring a Concealed Firearms Permit.

It’s not easy or cheap. You have to take a $100 class, pass a written safety exam, demonstrate safe gun handling and marksmanship at a shooting range, submit to fingerprinting and being “mug-shotted” like a common criminal, pay the state another $105, and then wait three months (or more) for an FBI criminal background check.

To induce us mostly well-behaved old geezers to participate in this dangerous scam, the organizers offered us a few minimal advantages of cost and convenience. While Nevadans without such permits have to pay $25 to have an FBI criminal background check run each time they purchase a firearm, serious gun owners and shooters were told that as a fringe benefit of acquiring the concealed carry permit was that we’d be allowed to buy firearms without undergoing (and paying for) a new $25 “Brady” check each time.

Guess what?

In an Oct. 13 letter, Major Robert Wideman of the division of the Nevada Department of Public Safety (state police) that handles the background checks here advises Nevada gun dealers “that the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has informed the state of Nevada that the Nevada Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) permit no longer qualifies as an alternative to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. ... Beginning Oct. 23, 2005, all firearms transferred to a CCW permit holder are subject to an NICS check, prior to the actual transfer, in the same manner as non-permit holders. ...”

What will be the immediate impact of this change, pulled off on a mere 10 days notice, without any chance for public input?

“We’re not going to sell as many guns,” says Rance Spurlock of Spurlock’s Gun Shop in Henderson, a mostly hunting oriented shop. “I’d venture to say our gun sales are a 50-50 mix,” between CCW holders and those without permits. “That’s the main reason a lot of guys got the CCW, is the volume of guns they buy.”

Other local dealers echo the 50-50 mix. The CCW holders may be a minority of gun buyers, but since many are collectors, they represent about half of weapons sold. That means the number of background-check phone calls could instantly double next week. And that could mean busy signals and delays, which means lost sales.

Rance says he’s been told the state office that handles the background checks is already interviewing new staff to handle that growth, but that it could take four to five months before that new staff is up to speed.

“And what good is new staff if you can’t get through on the phone lines?” asks Glen Parshall, a federally licensed gun dealer employed by Bargain Pawn, near Jerry’s Nugget in North Las Vegas. “This weekend (at the gun show at Cashman Field) I couldn’t get through for hours for the busy signals. I finally gave up.”

Glen will complete such stalled sales only if the customers look him up at his shop the following week.

Major Wideman of the Nevada Department of Public Safety denies any new staff is being hired to deal with an expected increase in telephoned background checks, from the current level of about 50,000 per year. Is he concerned about dealers getting busy signals? No.

“Those things occur anyway,” he told me. “There are peaks and valleys.”


Where did this all come from?

“The bottom line is, not all the jurisdictions that issue CCWs conduct a background check that includes an NICS check, and that’s required by law,” Mary Lerch, director of industry operations for the San Francisco field division of the BATFE, told me on Oct. 19.

Neither she nor Major Wideman would tell me which Nevada county sheriffs have allegedly been handing out the permits without running the required background checks.

Why not just tell gun dealers to stop honoring permits from those specific counties?

“We don’t deal with the individual jurisdictions. We only deal with states. It’s up to the states,” Ms. Lerch replied.

And if the Nevada authorities somehow cracked down on these wayward cow-county sheriffs?

“Then ATF would revisit the issue, yes.”

But not really. Ms. Lerch said there’s also a problem with the fact Nevada’s CCWs are good for five years. “That could be an issue. Someone could become a prohibited person” (by being convicted of a felony) “during the 5-year period.”

Ms. Lerch could not name me a single case where someone with a Nevada CCW which had become invalid has used it to escape a background check. Nor does all this rigmarole stop real felons from acquiring guns, of course.

Twenty-six-year-old Charles Walker, who recently withdrew his guilty plea, previously admitted to shooting good samaritan tourist Thomas Latimer to death during an armed robbery at a Las Vegas McDonald’s last January. Walker had just been released from a federal prison for bank robbery at the time of the slaying. “Prohibited persons” obviously have no trouble acquiring guns on the street; they do not pay for $25 background checks.

What the heck happened to initiate this change, after so many years with no reported problems?

“The ATF was reviewing the exemptions” when the problems with the cow counties were discovered, Ms. Lerch said.

Aha. In how many states did the government previously promise CCW holders an exemption from the costly and inconvenient Brady background checks, and how many of those exemptions are now being taken away?

Ms. Lerch claimed she did not know, referring inquiries to chief BATFE Public Information Officer Sheree Mixell in Washington, who was out of the office. Her assistant did not return my calls.

I called the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, expecting our local elected sheriff’s office would take our side against these weasly federals, changing the rules of the game -- to the detriment and expense of gun owners, as usual. Fat chance.

Sheriff Bill Young referred questions to Sergeant Chris Jones, at Metro’s Office of Public Information.

“This was largely supported by the counties, including our agency,” Sgt. Jones told me. “As far as we’re concerned it’s a good thing, because those permits are good for five years. This prevents someone” (who has committed a felony and thus become ineligible within the life of that five-year permit) “from going out of state somewhere and showing our permit and buying a firearm. It gave them a free pass, and now it doesn’t.”

“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” replies Glen Parshall. “They can’t go out of state and use a Nevada CCW to buy a gun. The federal form has a place to check off ‘No NICS check is required because the buyer has a CCW from the state where the transfer is going to take place.’ ”

Mary Lerch of the BATFE confirmed that -- the exemption was for in-state sales only.

“It’s like a suspended driver’s license, you can have it but it’s not valid,” Sgt. Jones explained.

“That’s not true,” Glen Parshall replies. “When my ex-wife filed a restraining order against me they came right to my door the next morning and knocked on the door and took away my permit, and I had to go to court to get it all straightened out. So they do have a policy and they do come and take it away.”

All Nevada’s sheriffs agreed not to fight this change, explains Lt. Paul Howell of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, who chairs the CCW subcommittee of the Nevada Sheriff & Chiefs Association, because the only way to please the BATFE would be to issue annual permits, or perform random annual audits of 50 to 70 percent of permit holders, which would be prohibitively expensive for the short-staffed rural counties.

“This Point-of-Sale exemption has been going away for years,” Lt. Howell told me. “Police officers no longer have a POS exemption except for their primary duty weapon. That changed about five years ago.”


The bottom line? Once again, gun owners, realizing that nations remain free (and states and counties retain low crime rates) only so long as a significant portion of the “civilian” population remains armed, and rather than be accused of “disobeying the law” (with all the threats to their liberty and safety that entails) have reluctantly entered into a registration and permitting process, under laws which they know to be null and void under the great precedent of Marbury vs. Madison.

To encourage us to participate in this scheme, which converts a God-given and constitutionally guaranteed natural, human, and civil right into a conditional privilege, revocable at government whim -- and additionally helps the government to identify and track the minority who still exercise this vital right -- we fools were promised certain minimal advantages and cost-saving “exemptions.”

Then, as soon as we’re all safely ensnared in the system -- fingerprinted, mug-shotted, registered by Social Security number and home address -- they begin tightening the screws, gradually eliminating even those minimal “advantages and exemptions” which were offered as an inducement to stick our heads in the noose.

The short-term practical impact? All firearm purchases (in Nevada ... and who knows where else?) will now be more time-consuming, more expensive, and less convenient. Overall, gun sales and gun ownership levels will drop yet again. A few more gun shops will give up their licenses and disappear, as has been the stated goal of the ATF for decades.

The long-term goal? Our complete disarmament.

And what do you suppose the cheerful $70,000-a-year boys at Metro (whoops -- soon to be $90,000), who think “this is a good thing,” have in mind for us then?