Clark County residents are in an uproar over the closure of Metro PD’s Cameron St. fingerprint bureau and the resulting massively increased wait times at the headquarters office. For those who have applied for a concealed firearm permit, the Cameron St. location provided a relatively quick process, whereas a two hour wait (or longer) at headquarters is not uncommon.
The headquarters office on Martin Luther King Blvd. was recently remodeled to add more windows to increase the number of citizens served, exasperating citizens during the interim, some waiting over 5 ½ hours to be served. The Cameron St. location was closed to the public to create a home for the traffic bureau, which is leaving what will soon become the new Spring Valley Area Command at 8445 Eldora Ave, near Cimarron and Sahara.
The time it takes LVMPD to issue concealed firearm permits has been an extreme point of frustration for Clark County residents who have routinely been facing waits of 100-120 days for a permit to be issued. NRS 202.366 requires that the sheriff must issue a permit (or deny it) within 120 days. The number of active permits in the county have grown by approximately 6,000 in the past year and almost doubled since 2010. 58,234 permits were active in Clark County as of March 1st.
It wasn’t until the spring of 2013, following the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, CT, that wait times between application and issuance jumped to the three month range. Before then, the average turnaround time was about two months or less. Even with the abolition of the ‘blue card’ handgun registration system and the staff needed to administer the system being freed up in June 2015, the wait times remain in the three-to-fourth month range.
Currently, LVMPD is taking the full four months (120 days) to issue permits. A few instances of temporary permits being issued have been reported after the 120 day mark. Technically, the sheriff could issue the temporary permit on Day 1, but does not. Other states with substantially similar processes, such as Utah, are issued in half the time (Utah’s permits are administered by the state).
In theory, with the staff freed from their ‘blue card’ tasks, the numbers should decline. Except the only decline was the seasonal summer dip. Roughly 500 permits per month, for a total of about 4,000, have been issued since ‘blue cards’ were phased out. It is not known exactly how many employees process permit applications or how the exact process is performed.
One explanation for the long wait times is that more and more Nevadans are waking up to the need to defend themselves. Lt. Randy Sutton of Metro stated that there is a “secret army” of concealed carriers that terrorists and criminals need to be wary of. The surging interest for personal safety creates and obvious bottleneck that the department is ill-prepared to handle. Yet again, some improvement should have been made, at least incrementally, with the burden of ‘blue cards’ removed. Washoe County, the next largest issuer of permits, was last documented issuing at about 70 days.
As the charts indicate, the rate of permits issued does not exactly correlate with the sudden spike of applications post-Sandy Hook (Dec. 2012). The violent spike in volume would logically overwhelm staffers not used to average volume tripling. However, the application volume falls off again to about average levels before rising up to double the pre-Sandy Hook average.
If the high volume of applications burdening the staff were the problem, the wait times and application rates should correlate. Except they don’t. Volume falls way off to a level that past averages don’t justify. Clearly, the CCW detail could handle the volume in the past with a 90-day return rate. It’s not the amount of work.
More data is needed, specifically application/issuance dates to get a more uniform sample.
Wait time numbers are anecdotal, coming from various private forums where wait times are tracked. Issuance/received time is the 'Received' date used; it was impossible to tell apart issuance vs. received date in some cases based on lack of clarification. Issuance date, where explicitly listed, was used. Mailing time and weekends allows for a margin of error of 2-4 days between issuance and receipt. Stats here (spreadsheet).
What takes so long?
Many applicants, in between fits of tearing their hair out, obsess over what takes so long for the permits to be approved. 500 permits per month would equal 25 permits per workday. What is in contention is how long it takes to work one application.
The FBI uses IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) to scan and search fingerprints for matches among criminal records. “The average response time for an electronic criminal fingerprint submission is about 27 minutes, while electronic civil submissions are processed within an hour and 12 minutes.” CT Carry has this information on their state’s process, which states the FBI response can be up to 24 hours. Clearly, while a response is pending on one set of fingerprints, other portions of application processing can be done.
Some have pointed out that other licenses, such as a real estate broker license, requires essentially the same background check process, and yet takes less than a month to receive approval. LVMPD also tends to approve National Firearms Act (NFA) forms within about two weeks (fingerprints and application is processed by the ATF), which one would imagine is held to much the same scrutiny as a concealed firearm permit.
Some testimony from the 1995 legislative session when Nevada adopted a ‘shall-issue’ system gives us a little more info, though it is 20 years old.
Mr. Cooper said the issuance of those concealed carry weapons permits requires one full-time clerk together with a part-time employee. He said the process is ‘laborious,’ consisting of a background check and clerical time which could take from 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours for each permit.
Lt. Cavagnaro added an FBI fingerprint check could take a minimum of 90 days. He said a background check could vary from ‘10 minutes for a local person to several days for someone from out of the state.
Senator McGinness asked Mr. Cooper if he believed an FBI fingerprint check was always necessary. Mr. Cooper answered the fingerprints would have to be submitted if the applicant's prints were not already on file. He admitted if a person moved to Clark County from out of the state, ‘...it could take from 60 to 90 days to follow up.’ Mr. Cooper said reviewing an application from a long-time resident of a county would be far more simple and take less time.
Mr. Griiser [NRA-ILA] addressed the subcommittee again, saying: "I have testified in over 30 states...and I have never heard anybody testify that it takes 90 days for an FBI background check to go through." He said in the state of Arizona the average wait, with a background check, is 10 days. Mr. Griiser stated he believed setting a 60-day time limit would be sufficient.
Mr. DeBacco, who testified earlier regarding this aspect of the legislation, said the repository submits approximately 60,000 to 70,000 civil fingerprints cards each year to the FBI, and the average turnaround time on licensing and employment issues is approximately 60 to 90 days. He said the testimony in that regard is accurate. Senator Porter indicated Nevada is the fastest growing state in the country, which may account for the lengthy turnaround time. Mr. DeBacco said the fingerprint check is a 'labor intensive process,' and is a much more inclusive process than a simple background check.
This was prior to the introduction of the IAFIS system in 1998.
We don’t really know what takes Metro so long. The numbers just don’t make sense. Ultimately, unless LVMPD or another agency is willing to shed light on exactly what they do, we can only make an educated guess. Hopefully, we can win constitutional carry in the 2017 legislative session.
Update: Metro said that the DPS provided stats may be inaccurate and the actual number of permits issued higher