Gun Violence and Background Checks in Nevada

Support for the Second Amendment goes hand in hand with keeping guns away from criminals and other dangerous people. But loopholes in the law make it easy for dangerous people in Nevada to get guns, resulting in needless violence—from deadly domestic abuse to suicide and school shootings. Research shows that common-sense public safety laws reduce gun violence and save lives. This fact sheet brings together the findings of Everytown for Gun Safety’s original investigations and analyses of relevant law enforcement and public health data to illuminate gun violence and crime trends of the illegal gun market in Nevada.

The Toll of Gun Violence

In the last decade of available data, 1,036 Nevada residents were murdered with guns, and an additional 2,795 died in firearm suicides or accidents.Centers for Disease Control, “WISQARS” (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System),” available at http://1.usa.gov/VTdKK9 (last accessed May 2015). More than half of suicides in the state (55 percent) were committed with guns.Centers for Disease Control, “WISQARS” (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System),” available at http://1.usa.gov/VTdKK9 (last accessed September 2014).

Nevada’s domestic violence gun homicide rate is 65 percent higher than the national average: between 2008-12, FBI data show there were 6.6 domestic violence gun homicides per million female Nevadans compared to 4.0 nationwide, making it the fifth most dangerous state in the country for women.Everytown for Gun Safety, State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Domestic Violence Homicide, September 2014, available at http://every.tw/1y3kxCb. The state saw 46 domestic violence gun homicides between 2010-2014, more than 25 percent of which were perpetrated by individuals prohibited from possessing a firearm.Everytown for Gun Safety, A Census of Intimate Partner Gun Homicides in Nevada, March 2016, available at http://every.tw/236hLkh.

Dangerous people who never should have had a gun in the first place commit a significant share of gun violence. Of law enforcement officers shot to death in the state since 1980, over half were killed by individuals who were prohibited from possessing firearms.Everytown for Gun Safety, Nevada Law Enforcement Deaths and Illegal Guns, November 2015, available at: http://every.tw/1PcBuBR.

Over the last ten years, hospitalizations for firearm injuries cost Nevada almost $246 million, including more than $40 million in 2014. More than half of that was ultimately paid by taxpayers, through public insurers such as Medicare and Medicaid or for un-reimbursed care.Everytown for Gun Safety, The Healthcare Costs of Gun Violence in Nevada, December 2015, available at http://every.tw/1PtNKyp.

A large number of Nevada guns wind up in the wrong hands, and Nevada is a leading source of crime guns recovered in other states in the region. Between 2006 and 2013, 5,175 guns originally purchased in Nevada were recovered by law enforcement in other states. This flow of crime guns is particularly pronounced in California: since 2006, the number of Nevada guns recovered at California crime scenes has increased 94 percent.Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) trace data, available at: http://1.usa.gov/1stn8HY.

 

 

Preventing Gun Violence

Federal law requires licensed gun dealers to conduct a background check for every firearm purchase. Since its inception, the background check system has blocked more than 2.4 million gun sales to dangerous people, including felons, domestic abusers, and the severely mentally ill.The FBI releases a monthly report of Federal denials nationwide but does not publicly release data for individual states or over time. Between the inception of the NICS system in 1998 and December 31, 2014, 1,509,050 gun sales were federally denied. In addition, between 1998 and 2010, state and local agencies issued a total of 945,915 denials, and it is estimated they have issued 225,000 denials in the three years since data was last released (http://1.usa.gov/Z8vYsa). Thus, a total of more than 2.4 million federal and state denials have been made since the NICS system was implemented.

In Nevada alone in the last three years, the background check system has blocked 5,379 gun sales to prohibited people, including 2,147 to fugitives, 1,226 to felons and 959 to people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors or subject to domestic violence protection orders.Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI data, June 12, 2015.

Loopholes in Gun Laws Undermine Public Safety

Background checks are the most systematic way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. But under current law in most of the country, background checks are only required for gun sales at licensed dealers. Millions of gun transfers take place between unlicensed, “private” parties — often at gun shows or through anonymous online transactions — and are not subject to a background check.Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms,” National Institute of Justice, USDOJ, May 1997, https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/165476.pdf. 2,568 individuals, including 251 gun owners, were surveyed by telephone and asked how they obtained their firearms.

This loophole in our background checks system is especially dangerous considering the vast, virtual gun show that now exists on the internet. Dozens of websites—like Armslist. com, the self-described Craigslist for guns—each host tens of thousands of ads for unlicensed gun sales and provides a forum for strangers to connect and arrange offline gun transfers, just like Craigslist does for furniture sales and concert tickets. In less than two years, the online market has experienced an almost sevenfold increase in the number of guns available.Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Felon Seeks Firearm, No Strings Attached, September 2013, available at http://bit.ly/1nllhRb. And every year, on just four websites, Nevadans post online over 35,000 ads offering guns in unlicensed sales, no background check required.Investigators scraped 11,289 for-sale ads over a 12-month period from three websites.

Criminals are flocking to this loophole to arm themselves. An Everytown investigation of online gun buyers showed that nearly one in 11 people shopping for a gun online in Nevada without a background check have criminal records that prohibit them from buying guns under federal law, including convicted felons and domestic abusers. This share is nearly seven times higher than the share of Nevadans who try to buy guns at licensed dealers and fail background checks.Everytown for Gun Safety, The Wild Wild Web: Investigating Online Gun Markets in Nevada, January 2016, available at http://every.tw/1TJel1K. At this rate, just four websites could put over 3,100 guns into the hands of felons and domestic abusers in Nevada.

 

 

Background Checks Save Lives

No single law will stop all gun crime, but expanding the background check system is a proven way to help save lives. In states that require a background check for all handgun sales, there are:

Everytown for Gun Safety, State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Domestic Violence Homicide, September 2014, available at http://every.tw/1y3kxCb. Everytown for Gun Safety, State Background Check Requirements and Rates of Firearm Homicide against Law Enforcement Officers, September 2014, available at http://every.tw/1FpRqkh. Everytown for Gun Safety analysis of FBI data, September 2014, available at http://bit.ly/13EIzuw. See also: Daniel Webster, Jon Vernick, & Maria Bulzacchelli, “Effects of State-Level Firearm Seller Accountability Policies on Firearm Trafficking,” Journal of Urban Health (July 2009). To gauge gun trafficking, the authors measured the ratio of likely trafficked guns recovered from crime scenes to the total of guns recovered. A “likely trafficked gun” was defined as having been recovered at a crime scene and not in the possession of its original purchaser within one year of its last legal sale.

 

Pass the Nevada Background Check Initiative

In November 2016, Nevadans have the opportunity to pass Question 1, which would require a criminal background check for every gun sale in Nevada, with reasonable exceptions for family transfers, hunting, and self-defense. Question 1 is simple: it expands the existing system to make sure that everyone buying a gun in Nevada passes a criminal background check, no matter where they buy the gun and no matter whom they buy it from. Meeting at a licensed gun dealer to complete a background check is easy. There are 515 federally licensed gun dealers in Nevada able to conduct background checks on unlicensed sales, 16 and 97.1 percent of Nevada residents live within 10 miles of one of them.

Meeting at a licensed gun dealer to complete a background check is easy. There are 515 federally licensed gun dealers in Nevada able to conduct background checks on unlicensed sales,Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, data for type 1 and 2 FFL licenses in Nevada in May 2015, available at http://1.usa.gov/1JOixGK. and 97.1 percent of Nevada residents live within 10 miles of one of them.Everytown analysis of US Census data, May 2015.

Eighty-six percent of Nevada residents support requiring criminal background checks for all gun salesMayors Against Illegal Guns, “New Poll Finds 86 Percent in Nevada Favor Mandatory Background Checks for All Gun Buyers,” March 5, 2013, accessed December 9, 2014, http://bit.ly/1vJW3Az. — as do 74 percent of NRA membersLuntz Global, Gun Owners Poll for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, July 2012, available at http://every.tw/luntz. and 55 percent of licensed gun dealers nationwideGaren J. Wintemute, Support for a comprehensive background check requirement and expanded denial criteria for Firearm Transfers: Findings from the Firearms Licensee Survey, 91(2) J Urban Health, (April 2014)..

Background Checks in Nevada