Return to the days of the Wild West would not suit Nevada, or any state – Las Vegas Sun


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J. Scott Applewhite / AP

The Supreme Court is seen at dusk in Washington, Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent hearing on a New York law restricting the carrying of guns in public left many legal experts predicting that the high court would strike down the law, based on the questioning from the justices.

Such a ruling would be worrisome, and not just for New Yorkers who face the prospect of having more guns on their streets. No doubt, it would embolden gun-rights activists in their campaign to undercut gun safety laws at the state level.

Nevada, fortunately, has strengthened its gun laws in recent years, and under its current leadership is unlikely to follow other states into dismantling their firearms restrictions. Our state also is unlikely to be directly affected should the court rule against the New York law, which requires gun owners to prove to a licensing authority that they have a special need to carry a weapon in public. In Nevada, guns can be carried openly without a permit except in areas designated gun-free, such as certain public buildings and in private businesses that choose to ban them from their premises.

But while Nevada may not see many changes based on the Supreme Court case, we don’t have to look far to see the dangerous ramifications of sacrificing public safety on the altar of unregulated gun rights. Our next-door neighbor, Idaho, is among the worst in the nation in gun safety — a problem that was tragically illustrated when a gunman killed two innocent people at a Boise shopping mall on Oct. 25 before dying in a shootout with police.

The shooter was a convicted felon who was known to law enforcement. He’d been flagged by Idaho State Police on suspicion of illegally possessing firearms, and he’d had run-ins with police in Boise and the nearby town of Meridian while armed.

But as pointed out in a column by Scott McIntosh, the Idaho Statesman’s opinion editor, the shooter could legally own and carry weapons in Idaho despite his felony record. That’s because Idaho’s lax gun laws allow for gun ownership by individuals convicted of certain types of felonies, and the shooter’s 2012 conviction of theft was among them.

“How frustrating it must be for a law enforcement officer in Idaho when your experience, training, knowledge and instincts tell you something’s not right — but there’s nothing you can do until you get the call, ‘Shots fired at the mall, people down,’ ” McIntosh wrote.

How frustrating, indeed. And how disturbing for Idaho residents and visitors. It’s no wonder that with gun policies like this, for which Idaho drew an F rating by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the state ranks No. 19 nationally in gun deaths per 100 residents.

Yet this Wild West approach is being adopted by several other states where Republican lawmakers have passed permitless concealed carry, lowered age restrictions on concealed carry, loosened restrictions on where guns can be carried, and so on.

Now comes the Supreme Court’s decision on the New York gun law, in which the court took on a subject it had left alone for years. It hasn’t ruled on a gun case since its landmark decisions in 2008 and 2010 that the Second Amendment protects citizens’ rights to keep firearms in the home for personal defense rather than in relation to military service.

But as legal experts point out, the questions from the justices on the right-leaning court indicated that they’ll extend the right outside of the home. For instance, Chief Justice John Roberts noted that people seeking to exercise their First Amendment rights didn’t need to convince the government that they had a special need or good reason to do so.

“You don’t have to say, when you’re looking for a permit to speak on a street corner or whatever, that, you know, your speech is particularly important,” he said. “So why do you have to show in this case, convince somebody, that you’re entitled to exercise your Second Amendment right?”

But as pointed out by New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, there’s a big difference between making a speech and carrying a gun.

“What is being argued is that any attempt to regulate by our license division in New York City should be struck down,” Shea said during a talk radio interview. “That would really open the floodgates in terms of people being able to carry guns across the city. Gun violence is something that certainly has hit us in the past two years — and not just New York but across the country — and we would argue the last thing we need is the infusion of additional guns into the streets of New York City.”

Same goes for Las Vegas, Boise or anywhere else.

What all Americans — and the Supreme Court — should remember is that the question at hand is not whether people can own guns. That is long settled law. The question is only about whether reasonable regulation — a word used with purpose and intent in the Second Amendment — is appropriate for a safe, orderly and just society. By that standard the New York laws are certainly reasonable regulation. Gun safety laws are just that — about public safety, not about stripping gun owners of their weapons or their other hysterical suspicions.

That’s why it would be harmful for Americans if the Supreme Court rules as expected, because more weakening of gun safety laws is almost certain to follow.

This is something for Nevadans to keep in mind as they vote for local, state and national leaders. We’ve adopted good gun policies in recent years, including universal background checks on firearms purchases and a “red flag” law that allows guns to be confiscated from individuals who are legally deemed to be a threat to themselves or others.

We need to maintain this reasonable, responsible approach to firearms, not go the way of other states that are tossing public safety to the wind.

As you well know !