Gun Laws Under Spotlight in Nevada, Where Gilroy Shooter Legally Bought Rifle and Killed 2 Kids, Recent Grad

Before the shock and horror subside after a mass shooting, a long-simmering debate inevitably heats up over gun control.

The latest attack happened Sunday in Gilroy, California, after a 19-year-old shooter snuck onto the grounds of the Gilroy Garlic Festival and killed three people. He carried out the massacre using an AK-47 style rifle -- a weapon that officials say can't be legally purchased or transported into California.

But the man bought the rifle legally in Nevada. And so the shooting will no doubt focus a spotlight on Nevada's gun laws, some of which are among the nation's least restrictive.

When a gun show takes place in Nevada, rates of gun deaths and injuries rise in neighboring California during the next two weeks, according to a study published in 2017. But when the gun shows take place in California, this local effect is not seen -- even when accounting for California's 10-day waiting period.

Some facts about gun laws in Nevada:

  • The right to bear arms is enshrined in the first article of Nevada's constitution: "Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense, for lawful hunting and recreational use and for other lawful purposes."
  • Carrying an unconcealed firearm in public is legal.
  • There is no mandated waiting period before buying a gun.
  • You can bring a gun to a polling place, to a casino and to a bar.
  • You cannot bring a gun to a school or a university campus.
  • Nevada voters passed a ballot measure in 2016 requiring a background check for firearm transactions between private parties, including at gun shows. But the state attorney general put it on hold, saying it wasn't enforceable.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group that tracks firearms legislation, gives Nevada a grade of D on its gun laws -- lower than more restrictive states such as California or Massachusetts but higher than 22 states that scored an F. (California was given a grade of A by the law center.)

Studies have linked tighter gun legislation to lower rates of gun violence.

According to a Pew survey conducted in March and April 2017, 83% of American adults said they consider gun violence in the US a big problem. But far fewer, 47%, say there would be fewer mass shootings in the US if it were harder for people to legally obtain guns.

Support for stricter gun laws often spikes temporarily after mass shootings.

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