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Attorney reminds Nevada governor: Leave gun shops alone

Despite Gov. Steve Sisolak’s call for the closure of all nonessential businesses, gun shops in Nevada remain open because of a 2007 state law.

Mark Hames receives a shipment of more gun products at 2nd Amendment Gun Shop on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Las Vegas. The shop has had to restock many products because of higher sales volume from COVID-19. (Ellen Schmidt/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @ellenkschmidt_

Despite Gov. Steve Sisolak’s call for the closure of all nonessential businesses, gun shops in Nevada remain open because of a state law established in 2007 after Hurricane Katrina.

Local attorney Don Green, who has spent much of his 37-year legal career working with gun sales, said the governor would be in violation of state law if he attempted to force gun shops to close due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19. He explained that Nevada Revised Statutes 414.155 limit the governor’s emergency powers by not allowing him to restrict the sale of firearms or ammunition.

Green penned a letter to the governor’s office on behalf of two local gun shops — one in Las Vegas and one in Henderson — on Tuesday, calling for the governor to abide by the guidelines outlined in the statute and allow gun shops in Nevada to remain open.

Sisolak did not take a stance on gun shops when he called for the closure of nonessential businesses. Gun shops were not listed as nonessential businesses, but they were not classified as essential, either.

Other states, like California, have considered deeming gun shops nonessential businesses and insisted that they close down. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday that he was going to close down all gun shops, but announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he was suspending the effort to close the shops down.

Attorney’s warning

Green said law enforcement showed up to his clients’ shops this week. They didn’t tell the owners that they had to close up shop, he said, but his clients were scared the direction was coming.

In his letter, Green called on the governor to comply with the state law and leave gun shops alone.

“You and your staff are respectfully advised of the specific provisions of NRS 414.155 which PROHIBIT the closure of any gun store in the State of Nevada,” Green wrote in the letter. “This specific Nevada Statute is a limitation on your authority under your Emergency Powers as well as pursuant to your March 20, 2020 Declaration of Emergency Directive.”

The Nevada Legislature passed the law in question in 2007, after reports that police in New Orleans had confiscated firearms from residents there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Green said the governor’s office had not responded to the letter as of 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Steve Crescenti, owner of Briarhawk Firearms and Ammunition, 5715 W. Sahara Ave., said he’s not worried about being shut down. His biggest concern, he said, is keeping his customers and employees safe.

Crescenti said he spent “a couple hundred dollars” on an iPad and a new software on Tuesday that would help his employees limit the store to only two customers at a time in an effort to enforce social distancing, even though the store is staying open.

“When people walk up to the door we’ll take down their name and number with the iPad and ask them to take a walk around the block or go wait in their car,” Crescenti said. “Then when it’s their turn to come inside we’ll just shoot them a text.”

And the money isn’t the issue. “As a small business owner, I wouldn’t think twice about spending thousands of dollars if that’s what it took to keep my customers and my workers safe,” Crescenti said, adding that the issue was the growing backlog of orders.

Background check delays

On Tuesday, Crescenti said he’d hired a new employee whose sole job was to call the state’s Brady Unit and take care of customers’ background checks, a process he said would usually take just a few minutes.

“Calling for a background check used to take five to 30 minutes max,” Crescenti said Tuesday evening. “It could always be done day-of, but now we’re having to tell our customers that it could take several days.”

By noon Wednesday, Crescenti said the process had changed. He said his employee was on hold from 8 a.m. to noon and when she finally got through, she was told the Brady Unit would call her back in two or three days with the results of the background checks.

“I get that they’re being flooded with calls right now, but what I’ve been asking since last week is why they’re not just taking spreadsheets from us with the customers’ information instead of making us sit on hold all day,” Crescenti said.

Contact Alexis Egeland at aegeland@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0335. Follow @alexis_egeland on Twitter.