You're breaking Nevada state law if you shoot bullets at a building, vehicle, aircraft or boat. Armor-piercing bullets for pistols are specifically banned. But the state prevents local governments from being much tougher. About 26,000 people have permits to carry concealed guns in Nevada, mostly in metro Las Vegas, where one of every 79 people age 21 or older has a permit. Judges have special permission to carry concealed guns into court. Nevada had many pro-gun reactions to this year's Virginia Tech shootings: State Sen. Bob Beers pushed a bill to allow Nevada teachers to carry guns; it failed to win passage. University Regent Stavros Anthony, who is also a Las Vegas cop, says he'll try to persuade other regents to allow Nevada university employees to receive training and carry guns on campuses. Ignatius Piazza, a former chiropractor who runs the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, which is developing shooting ranges, associated condos and "a five-story SWAT tower" on 550 acres in Las Vegas, has offered to train teachers and other school staffers for free. "Disarming the public is one of the first things a dictatorship wants to do," says Bob Maniaci, a retired Nevada cop who belongs to Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Maniaci runs a gun-sales business, Maccabee Arms, out of his Reno home and specializes in guns used by the Israeli military. "Jews and guns, in the U.S., it's an oxymoron," he admits. "Mostly Jews in the U.S. are left-wing liberals, they don't approve of guns. But we're not all that way, and if you go to Israel, the thinking is 180 degrees the other direction."
Guns are generally banned in the state fairgrounds, at the state library, inside bars and on buses. But in 2003, the Legislature and Gov. Bill Richardson finally ended the state's ban on concealed guns. Interestingly, there hasn't been a concealed-gun rush: Only about 6,000 New Mexicans have obtained permits so far. One is Richardson. Though a Democrat, he was endorsed by the National Rifle Association in his 2006 run for governor, and now, in his run for president, he's the only notable candidate in either party who's publicly stated he has a permit to carry concealed. Richardson is also one of the hundreds of thousands of people from around the world who visit the fabled NRA Whittington Center near Raton — 51 square miles of meadows and forest, complete with log-cabin lodging, campgrounds and food services. The center describes itself as "without a doubt the most complete shooting center in the nation … (including ranges) for smallbore rifle, high power rifle, black powder, trap, skeet, sporting clays, hunter sight-in, PPC (also called "action shooting" at multiple targets), smallbore rifle silhouette, highpower rifle silhouette, long range pistol silhouette, hunter pistol silhouette, benchrest, and practical pistol."
Pretty tough on guns. State law bans guns from many public buildings, allows local governments to restrict open carrying of guns, and specifically says you can't carry a loaded gun on a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle. Even campus cops at the University of Oregon are not allowed to carry guns on campus. Oregon voters approved a 2000 ballot measure tightening oversight at gun shows, requiring those unlicensed sellers to do background checks on customers. Still, at least 90,000 people have permits to carry concealed guns in Oregon. And the state has a very tough pro-gun group: the Oregon Firearms Federation, formed in 1998 and affiliated with the Gun Owners of America. "We're one of the most no-compromise organizations in the West," says Kevin Starrett, OFF's director and a super-hard-liner who believes that the NRA is too wimpy. "We don't make a lot of friends with politicians." The group lobbies the Legislature — which Starrett says "is now dominated by anti-gunners" — and fires off lawsuits against the university system, the city of Portland and other governmental entities. Sometimes it forces the regulators to back off. Starrett argues that the ban on loaded guns on snowmobiles and ATVs is blatantly unfair, for example, pointing out that under state law, "you can carry a loaded gun on a motorcycle or a mountain bike."
The University of Utah didn't allow guns on campus for 28 years. But in 2004, gun-rights advocates in the Legislature passed a law to force the university to allow guns, including concealed guns carried by those with permits — the only such law in the nation. The university challenged the law, but in 2006, the Utah Supreme Court upheld it. In this year's legislative session, the university hoped to win passage of a compromise law that would allow it to ban concealed guns in a few places (dorms and faculty offices). But all the university could get was this: Any student who doesn't want to share a dorm room with someone who's carrying a concealed gun can request a different, unarmed roommate. More than 80,000 people have permits to carry concealed guns in Utah. The permits are at the center of another controversy: Beginning 12 years ago, Utah allowed people from other states to get Utah gun permits by mail. Since most other states honor the permits, that means Utah offers "the closest thing to a national concealed-carry permit," the Salt Lake Tribune contends. In recent years, more than half the Utah permits were issued to out-of-staters, including a blind man in North Dakota. Carey McWilliams says he took a required course in gun use, the Associated Press reported, and he uses "special low-range, hollow-point bullets that are effective only in tight quarters." McWilliams insists that when it comes to guns, "It's nobody's business that I'm blind."
The state has a few tough laws: It monitors sales of used guns, requiring anyone who sells more than three a year to keep records. The law, which covers pawnbrokers and flea markets, also imposes a five-day waiting period on most people who want to buy pistols. But that's about it in terms of real gun control. In the wake of two shooting sprees last year that killed eight people, gun-control advocates tried to get this year's Legislature to tighten oversight of sales at gun shows (even though none of the guns used in the shootings was bought at gun shows). Gun-rights advocates beat back the attempt. About 233,000 people, mostly Washington residents, have permits to carry concealed guns in the state, making Washington among the top states for carrying concealed. And you can carry a concealed gun without a permit if you're at your business or camping, fishing or hunting. A couple of leading gun-rights groups share a building in Bellevue: the Second Amendment Foundation, which supports lawsuits against gun regulations nationwide and publishes Gun Week and Women & Guns magazines, and the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, which claims to have 600,000 members. Dave Workman, senior editor at Gun Week, explains why his group's courtroom barrages recently helped destroy gun bans that were enacted by voters and their elected leaders in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.: "A civil right isn't something you put up for a popular vote."
Generally, guns are banned in the state Capitol and in courtrooms, with one exception: Judges are allowed to carry concealed guns in court. Otherwise, things are pretty loose, and the state won't let local governments have tougher regs. About 11,400 Wyomingites have permits to carry concealed guns (one of every 32 people age 21 or older). Prominent Wyoming gun folks include Beverly Spungin, who won the U.S. Army M-16 Rifle Championship in 1991. (Her winning score still holds the record on the course at Fort Benning, Ga.) She explains: It was "all precision firing" in a "combat-style match" that included a two-mile run and "standing, prone or rapid-fire" shooting at realistic targets shaped to represent a man's head and chest, spaced at 100, 200, 300 and 400 yards. Spungin served 29 years in the Wyoming National Guard, including about a decade in charge of marksmanship training for the guardsmen statewide. Now 59 and living in a small farm town named Guernsey, she's cut back to part-time National Guard work. Spungin is vice president of the Wyoming State Shooting Association, which has more than 500 members and lobbies the Legislature on gun issues. Last year, the group failed to persuade the state to let any qualified Wyoming adult carry a concealed gun without a permit. (Only Alaska and Vermont are that loose.) The group will try to persuade the next session of the Legislature to allow concealed guns on university and college campuses. Spungin, who still shoots in competitions and on local ranges, says the secret to accurate shooting is "self-confidence."
(SOURCES: State officials, the National Rifle Association, the Legal Community Against Violence and other gun- oriented groups)
(NOTE: This article is a sidebar to the feature Guns R Us)