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
For gun owners, Red Rock is a unique carve-out in Nevada because it is the largest swath of land open to the public where carrying loaded firearms is prohibited. The red rocks and sandstone cliffs of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area that dominate the western skyline of Las Vegas is a BLM-administered area, separate from the National Park System, which does allow firearms. Long have local gun owners bemoaned the outmoded regulations without attempting to solve the problem. Congress won’t remedy this right on their own, but we can ourselves.
Readers are aware that state law prohibits local and state agencies from making their own firearm laws, including state parks, except for regulation unsafe discharge of firearms. Some may be familiar with the change to federal law under President Bush’s tenure that permitted firearms in National Parks (including recreation areas like Lake Mead) as long as the weapons are carried in accordance with state law.
Specifically, loaded firearms are prohibited in Red Rock. Ammunition and magazines/clips cannot be on or in the weapon, except for legal hunting as permitted. The excerpt regarding weapons is below, while the full Supplementary Rules are here. The penalty is up to a $1000 fine and/or 12 months in federal prison (43 CFR 8360.0-7).
How stupid is it that you can have a gun, and even carry it on your person, but it has to be unloaded? The rules will not prevent a criminal from carrying illegally or prevent illegal target shooting. There is no benefit of this rule and the few seconds spent loading a gun could be the few seconds that give a bad guy the advantage or allow a cougar to strike. On top of that, it is immoral to effectively disarm the citizens who won’t carry at all because they don’t understand the nuances of the law.
Basic firearm safety dictates a firearm should be handled as infrequently as possible. The best place for it is left alone in its holster. Loading and unloading a firearm introduces unnecessary variables that could lead to a negligent discharge. Creating the potential for an accident negates any alleged gains. Also, in a self-defense scenario when adrenaline is pumping, fine motor reaction is lost, making it more difficult to load and chamber a round before firing.
These rules were added shortly after Red Rock’s official inception as an NCA. The supplementary rules for Red Rock were published in the May 21st, 1993 edition of the Federal Register, which is the federal government’s journal. Federal law allows the interior secretary (via the BLM’s state director) to make supplementary rules and orders for the national conservation areas under his jurisdiction (43 USC § 1701).
Federal law is broken down into three main segments: The United States Code (USC), roughly analogous to the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS); The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); and internal federal agency regulations, which are published in the Federal Register. Agencies are authorized by Congress to make regulations in their area of operation, such as the ATF’s various administrative rulings. Now to make specific ‘park’ rules, based on the unique needs of the given area, the BLM’s state administrator can make supplemental rules (43 CFR 8365.1-6), as long as the public is given notice of the proposal and time to make comments.
No other federal ‘parkland’ in Nevada prohibits legally carried self-defense weapons, loaded or unloaded, including the two other conservation areas, Sloan Canyon (south of Henderson), and the Black Rock Desert. Sloan Canyon is managed by the Southern Nevada BLM office, which manages Red Rock.
Only two other Conservation areas, the Wallace Forest in Idaho and the San Pedro Riparian area in Arizona, have firearm possession prohibitions. Both are outdated as well (2000 and 1989, respectively). Even in California, the ‘Lost Coast’ conservation area allows loaded open carry under that state’s quirky carry laws. As mentioned earlier, National Parks and Wildlife Refuges allow firearms in accordance with state law (§ 512. pg. 31 “Credit CARD Act of 2009”), though guns are still prohibited inside federal facilities (18 USC § 1930).
How to remedy
The public should be allowed to carry firearms loaded for self-defense, not just in light of the Second Amendment, but because of the dangers inherent in today’s world. One should not be forced to be disarmed or carry a ‘neutered’ unloaded gun because of an outdated regulation. Heaven forbid anyone is attacked by a cougar or coyote, not to mention potentially being the victim of a crime at, or to/from, Red Rock. The right to loaded self-defense should not disappear because someone crosses an invisible line into a wild desert park. There is nothing inherent in Red Rock that makes visitors any less susceptible to danger.
Taking into consideration the state laws of Nevada and no prohibition on other federal recreational lands, Red Rock’s loaded gun ban is an anachronism. 1993 was a different time in America. Handgun ownership and self-defense carry was not nearly as popular as today and “shall issue” concealed weapon permit laws had yet to come to Nevada and sweep across the nation. As more and more people recognized the need for self-defense weapons and the attitudes in the country have changed, it is time that unusual, out-of-touch regulation disappear.
The rules are not federal law and do not require legislation to change, which would be a pipe dream with the current president. Rather, a gentle campaign of public pressure through petitioning the state director John Ruhs to amend the Supplemental Rules to allow loaded firearms to be carried for self-defense. Additional support could be sought from Nevada’s republican Congressional delegation (the Democrats probably wouldn’t agree).
Public pressure can change things. It may be as simple as a few nice, well-written letters. Imagine if thousands of Nevadan gun owners, hikers, bikers, and concerned citizens petitioned the BLM to restore their right to effective self-defense?
Notwithstanding the supplementary rules, 43 CFR 8365.1-7 says that state still law applies, meaning that Nevada’s concealed carry laws and lack of an open carry prohibition or ban on loaded handguns in cars would not be illegal. So there is recognition of state law already in place, though not as specific as one would hope.
Temporary closure orders for events such as Burning Man would probably require some sort of federal preemption legislation, but given the highly specific nature, limited duration, and legitimate concerns (hippies+drugs+guns=bad idea) make this a more palatable exception rather than an outdated blanket prohibition on loaded firearms.
We are asking for a small change to the law to bring Red Rock in conformity with other federal areas and the rest of Nevada. We are not asking to allow target shooting with its attendant trash and safety problems.
There will always be the leftists (often involved in environmental and outdoors groups) and anti-gunners who will ill-rationally protest the restoration of gun rights, but rights and truth win over hype and lies any day. On top if it all, guns are already allowed in Red Rock, just unloaded. Many practice ‘California open carry’ where the pistol is on one hip, the magazine on the other, and can be loaded in an emergency with a quick reload and rack of the slide. The unloaded guns haven’t hurt anyone or the wildlife; why would loaded guns make any difference?
So Nevada gun owners; are you on board? Sign the petition here!
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West