The New Nevada Gun Law, Part IV: The Blue Card

We made it to part IV of our series on the new gun legislation here in Nevada, and what a journey it has been!

Part I described how the “Castle Doctrine” has been expanded to include car theft.

Part II showed how the new law prevents domestic abusers from owning guns legally; part III discussed the expansion of civil liability protection for those who choose to use force to protect their homes and vehicles.

Part IV is where we bring it all home with the much anticipated (and desired by gun owners) abolition of Clark County’s Blue Card law1)seems the legislature finally got tired of waiting for the County Commissioners.

I opened each of the first three posts with the statement of intent of the law by State Senator Mark Roberson; I will do so again now:

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.

 

Part IV concerns that last statement by Sen. Roberson.  I will present the law and allow you to determine how specious a claim that really is.

To begin, in case you are not a Southern Nevada gun owner, you may be unfamiliar with the blue card law.

 

Clark County’s Blue Card Law

It is unclear how long the blue card law2)it acquired the nickname from the blue card issued by the Sheriff upon registration of the firearm has been effect. The County Code lists the origin as 1967, but multiple secondary sources claim the blue card law goes back to 1948.

Supposedly, the hope of the County Commission was to contain the gangster violence from the mobsters drawn here from the opening of the downtown casinos.  It states:

12.04.110 Registration of pistols within seventy-two hours.

Any resident of the county receiving title to a pistol, whether by purchase, gift, or any other transfer, and whether from a dealer or from any other person, shall, within seventy-two hours of such receipt, personally appear at the county sheriff’s office, together with the pistol, for the purpose of registering the same with the sheriff. It shall be the duty of the sheriff to register the pistol, and he may, and is hereby authorized to cooperate in any manner he sees fit with other law enforcement agencies, and with licensed dealers, relative to registration of pistols, so that efficient registration shall be secured at minimum cost and duplication.

While the blue card law is certainly tough, there is not an available, useful metric to determine how and if it is effective in controlling gun crime. Many gun owners contend, and have been contending, that the law is unnecessary with the background check requirements now in effect.

Other larger, more crime-ridden cities3)New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. to name a few have much stricter gun control legislation and still have significant gun violence. Would there be even more violence without the legislation? There is no way to know for sure how effective a blue card law is.

Although the legislation may be necessary, it most certainly is not sufficient to curtailing gun violence. As you will see in Section 8 of SB 175, a majority of the legislature feels the blue card law is neither necessary nor sufficient.

 

Section 8 of the Nevada Gun Law Regarding the Blue Card

Sections 8, 9, and 10 of SB 175 are very similar in nature; in fact, the portions reproduced below are identical except for whom the amendments are addressed to.

Section 8 concerns county commissions4)Here’s lookin’ at you, Clark, Section 9 refers to city councils, and Section 10 to town boards. In hopes of this article not mutating into a New Yorker feature-piece length, I will discuss only Section 8, but the analysis applies to 9 and 10 as well.

Sec. 8. NRS 244.364 is hereby amended to read as follows:

The Legislature hereby declares that:

(a) The purpose of this section is to establish state control over the regulation of and policies concerning firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition to ensure that such regulation and policies are uniform throughout this State and to ensure the protection of the right to keep and bear arms, which is recognized by the United States Constitution and the Nevada Constitution.

(b) The regulation of the transfer, sale, purchase, possession, carrying, ownership, transportation, storage, registration and licensing of firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition in this State and the ability to define such terms is within the exclusive domain of the Legislature, and any other law, regulation, rule or ordinance to the contrary is null and void.

(c) This section must be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose.

              2. Except as otherwise provided by specific statute, the Legislature reserves for itself such rights and powers as are necessary to regulate the transfer, sale, purchase, possession, carrying, ownership, transportation storage, registration and licensing of firearms, firearm accessories and ammunition5)I know I cannot think of any more relevant gun nouns; quite the comprehensive list in Nevada and to define such terms. No county may infringe upon those rights and powers.

              3. A board of county commissioners may proscribe by ordinance or regulation the unsafe discharge of firearms.

              4. Any ordinance or regulation which is inconsistent with this section or which is designed to restrict or prohibit the sale, purchase, transfer, manufacture or display of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition that is otherwise lawful under the laws of this State is null and void, and any official action taken by an employee or agent of a county in violation of this section is void.

              5. A board of county commissioners shall repeal any ordinance or regulation described in subsection 4, and any such ordinance or regulation that is posted within the county must be removed.

              6. A board of county commissioners shall cause to be destroyed any ownership records of firearms owned by private persons which are kept or maintained by the county or any county agency, board or commission, including, without limitation, any law enforcement agency, for the purposes of compliance with any ordinance or regulation that is inconsistent with this section. The provisions of this subsection do not apply to the ownership records of firearms purchased and owned by any political subdivision of this State.

 

Nevada is what is called a “home rule” state, meaning the counties/municipalities only have the authority to pass laws when explicitly given permission to by the state legislature6)for the three people out there who get all hot and bothered over a home rule vs. Dillon’s Rule debate, stay tuned! The Clear Counsel law blog will satiate you soon enough.

Apparently the state government has had just about enough of Clark County Commission governing its own gun laws.  Subsection 3 does permit the smallest amount of regulation for “unsafe discharge” of firearms; we cannot have gun play on the Strip, which would be bad for business7)want to guess where the majority of the state’s tax revenue comes from?.

Beyond invalidating most gun regulation, the county even has to destroy any ownership records8)now is the time to get your “Don’t tread on me” serpentine out.

Subsection 1(c)’s reference to “liberal construction” is a gentle reminder to those ‘activist’ judges of ours to watch themselves; the legislature means business.

You Localities Best Do What We Say…

Now back to SB 175:

7. Any person who is adversely affected by the enforcement of an ordinance or regulation that violates this section on or after October 1, 2015, may file suit in the appropriate court for declarative and injunctive relief and damages attributable to the violation. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, such a person is entitled to:

(a) Reimbursement of actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs which the person has incurred if, within 30 days after the person commenced the action but before a final determination has been issued by the court, the board of county commissioners repeals the ordinance or regulation that violates this section.

(b) Liquidated damages in an amount equal to two times the actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the person if, more than 30 days after the person commenced the action but before a final determination has been issued by the court, the board of county commissioners repeals the ordinance or regulation that violates this section.

(c) Liquidated damages in an amount equal to three times the actual damages, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred by the person if the court makes a final determination in favor of the person.

 

In case the County Commission is entertaining any thoughts of disobeying their overlords in Carson City, they are being informed that there will be consequences. Starting 1 October, gun owners may use the court system to ensure SB 175 comes into effect in a timely manner.

Often legislatures will use damages multipliers to incentivize attorneys to take on cases of social significance9)most famously, the treble damages available through federal civil rights lawsuits, called “1983 actions” from the location of the laws in the U.S. code..

The same theory is applied here in subsection 7(c).  Note in subsection 7(b), that if a locality can reduce treble damages to double the damages if they revise/repeal the laws subject of the lawsuit before a judgment is handed down.10)Cass Sunstein and his behavioral economics pals must love and hate this; if only we could get a comment

 

Wittgenstein Would Be Proud (But Would He Carry a Blue Card?)

I11)a word’s function vs. essence, a Wiki summary.  Beyond the primary material, see also David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System do not know about you, but I for one, cannot wait for the legislative history for the 2015 session to come out12)the event of summer, right after EDC!. In particular, I want to know how the following definition worked its way into sections 8,9, and 10 of SB 175:

(d) “Person” includes, without limitation:

(3) A membership organization whose members include a person described in subparagraphs13)which describe actual people (1) and (2) and which is dedicated in whole or in part to protecting the legal, civil or constitutional rights of its members.

Why do citizens need “membership organization[s]” to sue on their behalf? The only speculation I have is too snarky to be constructive. But “personhood” in America continues to develop in strange and mysterious ways.

Are you curious why the legislature did not wait for the 1 October deadline to pass to see if the municipalities will follow the law in good faith and/or if citizen-plaintiffs could successfully sue their way into compliance? Me too.

Well, there you have it.  What will the Clark County Commission do with  in response? We will keep an eye on it, and through us, so can you.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. seems the legislature finally got tired of waiting for the County Commissioners
2. it acquired the nickname from the blue card issued by the Sheriff upon registration of the firearm
3. New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. to name a few
4. Here’s lookin’ at you, Clark
5. I know I cannot think of any more relevant gun nouns; quite the comprehensive list
6. for the three people out there who get all hot and bothered over a home rule vs. Dillon’s Rule debate, stay tuned! The Clear Counsel law blog will satiate you soon enough
7. want to guess where the majority of the state’s tax revenue comes from?
8. now is the time to get your “Don’t tread on me” serpentine out
9. most famously, the treble damages available through federal civil rights lawsuits, called “1983 actions” from the location of the laws in the U.S. code.
10. Cass Sunstein and his behavioral economics pals must love and hate this; if only we could get a comment
11. a word’s function vs. essence, a Wiki summary.  Beyond the primary material, see also David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress and David Foster Wallace’s The Broom of the System
12. the event of summer, right after EDC!
13. which describe actual people
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