In an earlier post, we looked at the surging wait times for Las Vegas Metro Police (Clark County) to issue a concealed firearm permit, which can exceed the 120 day maximum in some cases. Combined with the closure of the dedicated fingerprint bureau, many citizens have become frustrated with the process. All the evidence indicates that yes, it really does take them this long and no, it is not some sort of government conspiracy, particularly because of matters outside of Metro’s control. With such huge numbers of applications, the CCW detail is nearly overwhelmed when volume peaks (see first post for charts).
Metro receives the most applications and consequently takes the longest time of all Nevada counties to issue a regular permit. It is the fingerprint background check and official court/local record requests, combined with very high volume, that causes the delay. Thankfully, four months is a small price to be paid in a traditional open carry state, unlike California, where someone without law enforcement/judicial employment can wait up to a year just for the preliminary interview and fingerprinting (due to surging demand after Peruta v. Gore).
Increased concerns about mass shootings, crime, and terrorism, along with an increasing belief that the average person should have a firearm for protection has caused a surge in concealed firearm permit applications and wait times. We covered the numbers and waiting times previously, but Sgt. Palmer of Metro’s CCW detail said that the Dept. of Public Safety numbers do not accurately represent the number of permits issued, which were about 1100 in December of 2015. Numbers fluctuate normally from 70 to 100 with a maximum daily number rate of 156 applications. As of April, the average issue time is about 90 days.
As application volume has increased, staff that used to split time between processing initial applications and running the database background checks had to be devoted to just the application process. Suspension and revocations (and their re-instatements) due to arrests or convictions is another factor in delaying initial applicants or renewals. National Firearm Act (NFA) chief law enforcement officer (CLEO) sign-offs are completed faster, in a 4-6 week time frame as some report, but have less steps as Metro checks local records and the bulk of the other research is done at the federal level.
The process used by Metro is fairly standard across the state and for some portions, in other states as well (though their laws on when a permit can be issued differ). Utah has a substantially similar permit, but issues before the fingerprint results are returned. They will issue if the computer searches come back clear, preferring to rescind a permit if necessary when the fingerprint check and document searches are finalized. This results in their average 60 day window.
Metro uses a Sharepoint database that allows any employee in the CCW detail working on applications to access a given file, sharing the workload amongst the team rather than leaving files entirely under one person’s charge. In smaller counties, files are often managed by only one clerical employee and personally reviewed by the sheriff.
The electronic law enforcement database searches takes only minutes. A clear record is obviously easier to process, but someone with a criminal record will need additional research, such as contacting the particular jurisdiction to obtain information on the record/charge. Sorting out near matches also takes time to determine if the listed ‘hit’ belongs to the applicant or someone with a similar name.
Court documentation, rather than the existence of a conviction record in a database, is required, necessitating requesting actual proof. Obtaining court documents to support dismissal of charges or simply ordering hard copies, when electronic ones cannot be provided, take time. One of the two major delays (the other being the fingerprint process) is getting the required paperwork.
Sgt. Palmer and his staff are dedicated to researching the information the best the can, laborious as it can be. “As long as they can meet the requirements, they have the right to the permit and we will take the time to conduct the investigation.”
The fingerprint check, through the FBI is routed via the state Dept. of Public Safety. Responses can take between 30-45 days. Sgt. Palmer tells us:
This process can create several problems and is responsible for numerous delays. An example is the state has lost the file or we never received the return. We have to re-submit the prints and/or request why we never received a response. We can only request this once every 30 days. So, once we send the request in, we have to wait 30 days for the response or lack of response to occur. If we don't receive anything in another 30 days, a 2nd request is sent.
Background checks for law enforcement employees across the country also, at a minimum, take a minimum of two months for many of these same reasons as well. Even in California, an expedited concealed weapon permit can take two months to process.
Some permittees have had their fingerprints rejected because of light prints, damage to their fingertips, or other problems with the Livescan system. Sgt. Palmer says this can quickly increase the time taken to process an application.
Once the electronic prints are rejected, the person must come in and complete an actual print card. The card is completed and mailed to the state. If the prints are rejected again, we have to request a non-print background check.
Printing and mailing the car is a matter of how long it takes to physically print the card and ready it for mailing. Mailing time in the Las Vegas Valley is usually two business days, but in rural parts of Nevada, it can take longer or the permittee would need to come pick-up the permit.
Across the state
Clearly, all counties are different and permit receipt times vary, generally with the smaller counties having the fastest issuance times. This depends on local volume, although much of the delay is waiting on fingerprint records, which will naturally take longer almost uniformly, depending on the volume received. Sheriff Trotter of Churchill County reports that it takes his agency about 30 days to issue a permit. Elko finds it takes three to six weeks for a reply to the fingerprint record requests. Mike Dorson, of the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, told us:
At our agency it takes approximately 30 minutes to process an applicant once he submits it at our front office window. However he/she may have a long wait depending on his/her spot in line. Every Tuesday afternoon we process 15-25 applicants from Front Sight Firearm Training Institute. Sometimes we have to turn applicants away (due to closing time) and they either return at another time or they mail their applications to us.
As far as mental health records, the availability is limited. Nye County does not have access to mental health records, while Churchill County has their own local database. Agency master file records will generally indicate if a person was ordered held on “Legal 2000” 72-hour mental health hold. Presumably, that would trigger a more in-depth search.
Sgt. Palmer told us that when he first took his assignment within the CCW detail, he was surprised by the amount of time and work that went into the process. Unfortunately, the nature of the process, the extensive investigations that must be performed, and the amount of work required to document each requirement causes much of the delay. While most citizens can appreciate seasonal volume or tragic events spurring more applications, not knowing what happens once the packet and check cross the counter leads to much consternation.
When the concealed firearm permit process was changed to shall-issue in 1995, there was a concern that 60 days to issue the permit was insufficient, leading to the 120 day deadline. A 60-90 day wait was not unusual for non-weapons background checks then. While the process has been sped up by electronic records and delivery/submission of fingerprints and record checks, the applicant volume has erased those gains.
Short of hiring more records clerks in Clark and Washoe Counties, there is not much more that can be done to accelerate the process. State law could be changed to institute a policy such as in Utah, which would allow for issuance pre-fingerprint background check results. The Dept. of Public Safety could also consolidate operations in a larger bureau, but this would require additional state funds to staff and operate.
By far, the best solution is to enact ‘Constitutional carry’—permitless concealed carry. While open carry without a permit is legal in Nevada, most Americans prefer to carry their firearms concealed. Many who desire to protect themselves don’t want to openly carry a handgun, but are equally dissuaded from the cost of training, the application, and the intimidating process of applying for a permit. It shouldn’t be a crime to put a jacket on over a holstered gun or for a woman to tuck pistol in her purse. Only with the legislature stepping up in 2017 to change Nevada law to catch the wave of new constitutional carry states across the nation will concealed carry become less of a hassle to Nevadans and our oh-so-necessary tourists.
Some fifty miles east of Elko, the gun rights debate just got a little hotter. Wells, Nevada, is no longer a stop on the Lincoln Highway, but gun-toting travelers on I-80 might want to make the stop and have a drink at the Sixth Street Bar. On a recent visit to northern Nevada, I found the two lone employees, Rachel and Samantha, packing a pair—of revolvers. Yes, the topless bartender and waitress were both armed with six-shooters. Samantha carried her boyfriend’s Smith and Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum, which she was quick to point out was the gun from Dirty Harry.
Rachel, who normally carries a Glock 26, was armed with a mean looking High Standard Sentinel she picked up at a recent gun show. “I don’t think people are paying too much attention to the guns to notice it’s only a .22,” she said. However, one visit makes it clear there’s no shortage of big guns in that little bar.
Being the only topless establishment within a hundred miles draws a mixed crowd of curious tourists, miners, and ranchers. In late 2015, the Elko County Commission approved an application for the bar to become a topless establishment, saving the historic establishment from bankruptcy. With 70 years of history lining the way, breasts and guns or not, a closure of the cozy dive bar would have been a tragedy. Carl Foreman, 49, has been visiting the bar every Saturday for the last 28 years and openly carrying his own snub-nose Colt revolver, although
he lamented that he “never got half the attention those ladies do.”
Rachel, 34, a Reno native and UNR School of Business graduate, took the job a year and a half ago when her boyfriend took a job at nearby mine. A score of bad Yelp reviews (under the old name 6th Street Bar) initially scared her away from the establishment, but owner John Pederson convinced the business major to take over managing the bar. She and Pederson remodeled the bar, carefully refinishing the wood paneling purportedly taken from old barns in the area. Still, the idea of a quaint, well-run watering hole off the beaten path didn’t draw the customers. Something had to be done to draw in more customers.
Asked what her boyfriend thought of her idea to serve drinks and occasionally dance on bar topless, Rachel said “He was very supportive, but figured that I owed him free drinks. We compromised on two free beers a night,” she laughed. Traffic began to pickup, if only for the novelty at first. Several girls came and went “mostly washouts from the brothels and clubs in Reno” before Samantha, 23, joined her.
Owner and retired rancher John Pederson said that he bought the bar, mostly as a retirement hobby, not expecting it to be anything more than an expensive private hideaway. He credits reality TV programs with getting him to take the business seriously. The nudity was “an unplanned diversion from my lack of a plan,” the 67 year-old divorcee said. As for the guns, the thought struck him after Samantha was held up in the parking lot.
“She calls me and says that some guy tried to rob her in the parking lot, but she pulled her pistol from her purse and scared the guy away.” Deputies later arrested a man matching the suspect’s description in Elko. “I thought, sure a topless girl looks helpless, but you don’t know these women. Still, they don’t deserve the trouble.” So he told his staff to start openly carrying their pistols, if they chose. So far, only the cook José doesn’t carry at work. “It gets in the way while cooking. I knocked over a pot once, and that isn’t going to work.”
I asked if this was a gimmick. “Of course it’s a gimmick,” Rachel said. “You don’t stop in Wells for the chicken wings.” José yelled from the kitchen that he begged to differ. “Sam and I drive the traffic, and we make things a little bit more unique with our pistols.” Did she thing that nudity and guns were incongruous? “Not at all. Look, the liberal world today is trying to make people hide their guns. ‘It’s okay to own them, it’s okay to carry them, but hide them in your pants or your purse, okay?’ No, they need to be out in the open to stimulate conversation. They shouldn’t be hidden.”
Samantha agreed. “My first time, I was really nervous. This wasn’t someplace out in the middle of nowhere, this was in public. I was worried about what people might say, what the police might do. It was scary. And you know what I found out? It was no big deal. Sure, I got a few funny looks and some guys made smart ass comments, but nothing bad happened. Got a few phone numbers too,” she laughed. “Guys like it and the creeps don’t.”
“Yeah, a lot less of the creepers come around now that we pack,” Rachel chimed in. “We’re more intimidating than even Red now,” she said, referring to the bearded, Irish bartender who works the two nights Rachel and Samantha are off. Both women said the reason they choose to carry is for personal protection and the comfort of not having to rely on 911, which doesn’t guarantee a swift response in rural Nevada.
Have they received any criticism? Pederson said that a few of the local wives left, but that was because they disapproved of the nudity. “People around here aren’t much afraid of guns. And if one of those angry mommies from Las Vegas wants to come up here and complain about the guns, screw ‘em. The Puritans already hate us for the booze and boobs, so I think we can handle any heat over our heaters.”
Pederson said that he plans to keep the guns in the business as long as the staff wants them. “I personally have a huge commitment to the Second Amendment. I think it’s kinda rubbed off on the ladies. Guns have a place in society. When we try and hide things that we all love, instead of embracing them, it just breeds a bad environment. It’s not naughty at all.”
As for scratching the itch I originally stopped for, wings and beer, the bar excels. Wednesday is all-you-can eat wings day and beer is half-price Sunday and Monday (coincidentally the days the ladies are off). Hours are 4PM to midnight and the Sixth Street Bar is on, you guessed it, 6th street. Profits from this coming Monday, 4/5, are being donated to the NRA.