Nevada’s New Gun Law, Part III

Welcome to Part III of our series discussing the Senate Bill (SB) 175, Nevada’s sweeping new gun law.  Part I discussed the expansion of the classification of justifiable homicide to include automobile invasions1)in addition to home invasions, which was already permitted. Part II examined how SB 175 expanded the class of persons excluded from owning forearms to include people accused of domestic violence.

Here in Part III we will examine the updates to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) that expand the allowable instances of justifiable force that a person may not be held civilly liable under law.

Again, I will reproduce the statement of intent for SB 175 given by State Senator Michael Roberson:

 

To keep guns out of the hands of those who have proven their propensity to commit violence against those they supposedly love and should protect;

To allow law abiding gun owners to appropriately defend themselves in their vehicles as they currently can in their homes; and

To ensure that our Second Amendment rights are administered in a fair and uniform way across the State, and to provide a means of redress when that is not the case.

 

I believe Section 7 of SB 175 is intended to address his second point.

 

Section 7 of the gun law

The portion of the NRS amended by Section 7 updates the law describing legal presumptions made when force is used by a property owner against invasion or theft:

 

NRS 41.095 is hereby amended to read as follows: 41.095 1. For the purposes of NRS 41.085 and 41.130, any person who uses:

(a) While lawfully in his or her residence , in transient lodging or in a motor vehicle that is not his or her residence, force which is intended or likely to cause death or bodily injury is presumed to have had a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily injury to himself or herself or another person lawfully in the residence, transient lodging or motor vehicle if the force is used against a person who is committing burglary, invasion of the home or grand larceny of the motor vehicle with the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that burglary, invasion of the home or grand larceny of the motor vehicle with the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon was being committed. An action to recover damages for personal injuries to or the wrongful death of the person who committed burglary, invasion of the home or grand larceny of the motor vehicle with the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon may not be maintained against the person who used such force unless the presumption is overcome by clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.

(b) Force which is intended or likely to cause death or bodily injury is immune from civil liability in an action to recover damages for personal injuries to or the wrongful death of a person against whom such force was used if the use of such force was justified under the applicable provisions of chapter 200 of NRS2)Chapter 200 of the NRS classifies crimes and defenses.  As referenced here, the legislature is referring to subsections of Chapter 200 that define “justified homicide” [NRS 200.120] and similar situations relating to the use of such force.

 

Subsection (a) is awfully wordy3)brownie point to anyone who made it all the way through instead of skimming to the commentary.  Allow me to simplify.  The intent of the statute is to make it difficult for thieves to sue property owners for injuries that occurred when the property owner used force to defend his or her property.  Section 7 amended the law by adding grand larceny of a vehicle to the list that includes burglary and home invasion, so that it is presumed that these property owners “ha[ve] a reasonable fear of imminent death or bodily injury.”

Why does this matter? Because that reasonable fear is a sustainable defense against a civil suit brought by a robber for the injuries suffered during the crime, and the robber will not be able to recover damages.  The robber must provide “clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.”4)recall if a “propensity of the evidence” is means that an event occurred with a 51% likelihood, then “clear and convincing” is halfway between “propensity” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  I know that is still ambiguous, unfortunately, so is much of the law.  Unless the hypothetical robber in our scenario is not actually committing a crime, it is difficult to imagine scenarios that the “clear and convincing” standard could be met.

SB 175 amended the NRS to add the entirety of subsection (b).  This section is more extreme than subsection (a) in that any force that is considered justifiable under Chapter 200 of the NRS is immune from civil liability5)there is no clear and convincing exception.  It functions additionally as a catch-all for the use of force in scenarios that may not technically be robbery, grand larceny, or a home invasion6)if for example, the confrontation took place outside the home, while the victim/shooter was walking to his or her car.

The intent of the legislature is clear: property owners have the right to use force to protect their property7)within reason, and criminals should not have the right to use the legal system to recover damages for injuries sustained from illicit behavior.  As to how necessary this is, or if it produces the outcome hoped for, will be a discussion for another time.

 

Stay tuned for part IV, where we learn what can happen to municipalities that do not obey the new law by 1 October of this year.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. in addition to home invasions, which was already permitted
2. Chapter 200 of the NRS classifies crimes and defenses.  As referenced here, the legislature is referring to subsections of Chapter 200 that define “justified homicide” [NRS 200.120] and similar situations
3. brownie point to anyone who made it all the way through instead of skimming to the commentary
4. recall if a “propensity of the evidence” is means that an event occurred with a 51% likelihood, then “clear and convincing” is halfway between “propensity” and “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  I know that is still ambiguous, unfortunately, so is much of the law
5. there is no clear and convincing exception
6. if for example, the confrontation took place outside the home, while the victim/shooter was walking to his or her car
7. within reason
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