Last week, an unfortunate forgetful CSN student forgot that he had his rifle and ammo in his vehicle. Apparently, a fellow student saw some firearm magazines in his parked vehicle and called police. Police at this point “tracked down the student who had driven the car to campus. It was then determined that the student had a rifle and approximately 2,000 rounds of ammunition inside the vehicle.” The student was arrested for a violation of NRS 202.265, possessing a firearm on school/college grounds.
We have learned that the student, 27 year-old Shayn Striegel is an otherwise law abiding citizen and licensed concealed carrier. Members of the gun community have vouched for his reputation and state that as Striegel said, this was truly an unintentional act. Striegel truly did forget about the rifle as he told police. 2,000 rounds of ammo is also nothing; that’s two bricks of .22 (the size of a pound of butter) or two cases of 5.56 (each the size of a 12-pack).
References to mass shootings and threats around the country were placed in many news articles about the incident. Whether these were intended to highlight increased awareness on campuses around the country or a sly way to insinuate something sinister to increase readership or advance some agenda isn’t known. What is known so far is that police have uncovered no plot or anything else to suggest this was more than just bad luck.
When guns are legal in cars literally everywhere else in the state, one can see how a regular shooter might make this mistake. It’s a costly mistake to be sure. There is no reason merely having a firearm in your vehicle should be a crime for an adult student. A gun does not become more dangerous on campus than in the parking lot of a private business. That’s before we even address the issue of self-defense carry on campus.
There is no practical legal way to possess a firearm on campus. Several bills over the last legislative sessions were shot down or died that would have decriminalized this act. Firearms are only allowed on campus with written permission. CSN policy, along with the entire Nevada System of Higher Education (state college and university system) effectively denies all but the most compelling cases. Few if any authorizations to carry concealed on campus are ever granted. Most permission is for non-defense carry. We even created a form to help people apply for permission.
As a reminder, colleges and universities were never the original target of NRS 202.265. Clark County high schools had a problem with adult gang members bringing guns on to high school grounds. When the bill reached the legislature, the college and universities petitioned to be added to the bill without any real justification. College students should, at a minimum, be allowed to possess firearms in their locked vehicles.
Many on social media rushed to defend the student and criticize the actions of police. In today’s anti-gun hypervigilant society university officials and police are almost locked into going all the way. This is a sad commentary on our times.
As for the police conduct, a student reports seeing rifle magazines in a vehicle. While this in and of itself is not illegal, where there are magazines there is often a firearm. Police will respond to the call and will investigate further. We don’t know at this time if they got consent from Striegel to search his vehicle, but even without consent, if seeing the magazines amounted to probable cause to search for a weapon, such a warrantless search would be permitted under Supreme Court precedence (Carroll v. US). Whether the magazines alone would suffice to establish probable cause is for a court to decide.
We hope that Striegel did not give police consent to search his vehicle and did not make any voluntary statements. Nothing good can come from talking to the police without an attorney present. However, if as we are told, this was just an innocent mistake, Striegel’s fate is not a serious one. A violation is only a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail, and/or a maximum of $2,000 in fines. What is likely to happen is Striegel plea bargain and will have to forfeit his CCW for a time, serve probation, and pay a fine. A normal person who got unlucky in these times and forgot his rifle is unlikely to be severely punished.
Additionally, should strict scrutiny be applied to the Second Amendment in the US Supreme Court’s upcoming case, NYSRPA v. NYC, campus carry restrictions may well be thrown out and Striegel’s conviction too.
It’s sad that an innocent mistake involving an avid target shooter can be blown up into something criminal when nothing evil was intended. This incident is nothing more than a case of hoplophobia based on media hype and anti-gun university staff from 30 years ago glomming on to legislation.