The right to keep and bear arms in Nevada: Part II

The state’s unconstitutional gun laws

By Ben Robison
  • Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Given the politics of the issue, few Nevada lawmakers want to be on record as opposing individual gun ownership. Yet a close look at the actual record suggests the Silver State has a working majority in its legislature covertly scornful of your right to keep and bear arms.

A previous NPRI commentary pointed out that the original intent of the Second Amendment is not about protecting hunters' guns and not about mere individual self-defense against criminals. No, the second article of the Bill of Rights is about your right to defend yourself against an unjust government.

Nevertheless, here in Nevada, state, county and city laws restrict the liberty guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Indeed, current handgun registration and waiting periods in Clark County demonstrate a complete lack of understanding and adherence to the U.S. Constitution. Even the language of the Nevada Constitution — essentially dictated to the fledgling state by the Lincoln administration during the Civil War — tends to undermine Second Amendment rights.

Gun registration

The Nevada Legislature has passed laws authorizing counties to enact mandatory handgun registration and waiting periods. While only Clark County currently has such laws, they nevertheless impact some three out of four Nevadans.

How does registration protect individual liberty?

Proponents argue that the compulsory handgun-registration process is easy and that it increases public safety. Ease of doing something, however, is no justification for doing it. More importantly, evidence does not support the claim that registration increases public safety.

Gun registration simply means that the government knows who lawfully owns handguns. Should a registered handgun be stolen, the system offers no help in finding it (although if recovered, law enforcement can theoretically return it). Registration does nothing to help prevent crime, and its contribution to solving crimes is a dismal failure. Economist John Lott noted that while Canada's gun registration had cost 500 to 1,000 times more than anticipated, the nation's violent crime rate had risen slightly, and the "Canadian government ... could not identify a single violent crime that had been solved through registration."

When other countries have experimented with gun registration, the results have been similar. For example, after Australians began spending an average of $200 million a year for such a registry, their Chief Inspector noted that it did nothing to identify or apprehend criminals. New Zealand and Germany, too, have implemented registration, and just as with Canada and Australia, those systems have also been expensive failures.

Handgun-registration laws offer a false sense of security to the ignorant and do nothing to fight or reduce violent crime. On the other hand, registration undermines individual liberty — taking power from the individual and giving it to the government. Clark County's registration is blatantly unconstitutional.

Waiting periods

Clark County also has a three-day waiting period for first-time handgun purchases. As with registration, this is a restriction of personal liberty and an unconstitutional infringement. But the similarities don't end there. Proponents of waiting periods claim they increase public safety, yet, as with registration, no evidence supports that claim. Indeed, as Lott reported in a CBS News article, research done on waiting periods shows they do nothing to change murder or robbery rates — while rape and aggravated assault rates actually rose by a few percent.

Researcher David Lampo confirmed Lott's findings:

Numerous studies have been conducted on the effects of waiting periods. ... Those studies consistently show that there is no correlation between waiting periods and murder or robbery rates. Florida State University professor Gary Kleck analyzed data from every U.S. city with a population over 100,000 and found that waiting periods had no statistically significant effect. Even University of Maryland anti-gun researcher David McDowell found that waiting periods have no influence on either gun homicides or gun suicides.

It is time to repeal these laws

Registration and waiting-period laws do nothing to increase public or individual safety, nor do they assist in reducing or solving crime. Instead, they offer false security to the uninformed and allow governments to diminish liberty. Eliminating such unconstitutional laws would place all Nevada citizens in a better position to keep their unwieldy charge — the government — in check.

"When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." This quote, often attributed to Thomas Jefferson, explains why the Second Amendment is so critical to liberty.

Jefferson knew that laws violating individual rights always serve the will of the tyrant. Such is the case with these laws. Mandatory registration and waiting periods weaken liberty and violate the Second Amendment, and thus should be repealed.

Ben Robison is a contributing writer to the Nevada Policy Research Institute.

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