Could you purchase a gun in Nevada? Probably.

Could you purchase a gun in Nevada? Probably.

In the case of Stephen Paddock, existing gun laws didn’t fail - they’re just that lenient

Written by
Edited by JPat Brown

So, you decided to purchase a gun in Nevada.

1. The first step, unless you know a private dealer willing to sell you a gun, is to go to a Federal Firearm Licensed (FFL) Dealer.

If you’re in the Las Vegas area, you’re in luck - there are roughly 300 holders of this license. You can buy a machine gun - provided it was manufactured before 1986 - just 20 minutes outside the Las Vegas Strip.

2. Once you’ve found the firearm you want, the store will run a background check on you.

All FFLs are required to run a background check prior to a gun sale. You complete ATF Form 4473, which asks 16 questions, including, “are you a fugitive from justice?” And “are you an alien illegally in the United States?” The store will then contact the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), run by the FBI, giving them your answers and social security number. A permit may also be required, but this varies depending on state and type of firearm.

3. A firearm will be denied on criteria outlined by federal law and state laws.

The 10 federal disqualifications, given to us as part of a request with the Nevada Attorney General, are:

Extra disqualifications vary from state to state. In Nevada, there are two:

According to the FBI, the NICS returns an immediate response more than 90 percent of the time. To check even more records, states can opt to run their own background checks in addition to the federal NICS. Only 21 states take this extra precautionary measure. There are now three possible outcomes:

1. You were given the instant OK by the FBI.

Congratulations! You’re now the proud owner of a firearm. This can mean different things. Clark County, where Las Vegas is, used to have a required 72 hour waiting period before taking your new gun home.

2. You were denied.

Too bad. Try a different state, or buy an antique online.

3. The FBI wants more information.

If the results of your background check came back inconclusive, and the FBI wants to further look into your case, they legally have three days to do so. If they have not reached a determination by the end of those three days, you will automatically be sold the firearm in what’s known as a default proceed. Most infamously, this is how Dylan Roof was able to purchase a Glock and murder nine people at a church in Charleston, despite a previous drug offense.

The dealer is not required to notify the FBI when a sale has been made via default proceed. If the FBI later determines the gun sale was illegal, they are obligated to send a retrieval order to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). The ATF then works in conjunction with local law enforcement to confiscate the gun. Keeping with what we’ve found so far, the data surrounding default proceeds and successful retrievals is murky. The FBI says they issue an average of 3,000 retrieval orders each year. There is no information on how many of those are successful. We’ve been filing to find out how many guns are sold as a default proceed each year, and while our requests to find this information have so far been futile, the same data that was denied to us was released to Think Progress earlier this year. Their data shows more than 300,000 firearms were sold as default proceeds last year.

The Las Vegas shooter was legally sold a gun. According to the New York Times, the 65-year-old man had stockpiled 23. He passed the routine background checks. So what went wrong?

In this case, it wasn’t that the system failed - it was that the system is just that lenient.

Gun law advocates have given Nevada an F rating. The state doesn’t require any permits, licenses, or registration on rifles and shotguns. And while it’s technically illegal to purchase a modern machine gun, Mother Jones reported in 2012 on how easy, and legal, it is to rig your semiautomatic to fire just like one. The Las Vegas shooter had his own modified gun, which may have been the cause of his rapid fire shooting that left 59 dead and more than 500 injured. 90 shots were fired in 10 seconds.

Is that really “the price of freedom?”

Read Nevada’s firearms policies embedded below, or on the request page.

Image by Michael Saechang via Flickr and licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0.