Around 7 a.m. Las Vegas local time, VICE News called Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, the state’s NRA affiliate, to discuss gun laws in the state. Turner was in Phoenix, attending an NRA conference for gun range owners, where he’s scheduled to speak this morning.
Turner described Nevada’s gun laws as “libertarian” and “not very restrictive.” Turner noted that it is perfectly legal for Nevada residents to own assault rifles and that “the only restriction on magazine capacity in Nevada is how strong you are,” meaning if you can physically pick up the magazine it’s legal to carry.
Then it became clear to our reporter that Turner did not yet know about the mass shooting — believed to be the deadliest in recent U.S. history — that took place the night before at a country music concert on the Las Vegas Strip. At least 59 people died and 527 were injured in the shooting.
Upon learning of what happened, Turner told VICE News that “when someone has that kind of mentality, it doesn’t matter what kind of laws you have,” and he encouraged a calm public response. “In the emotion of the moment, there’s a tendency to push anti-gun agendas. We need to find out what really happened.”
On behalf of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, Turner said, “NFC is deeply saddened by what happened. It’s not a reflection of the majority of gun owners in Nevada. NFC gun owners are dedicated to responsible and safe use of firearms. This is a tragedy.”
Among the performers at the concert was Luke Combs, a featured artist of “NRA Country,” an arm of the gun rights organization that has partnered with the country music industry for the past several years in effort to reach younger audiences. NRA Country tagline on its website: “Respect. Honor. Freedom. It’s a lifestyle and a bond between the best and brightest in country music and hard-working Americans.”
Prior to informing Turner of the tragic event at the Mandalay Bay Casino, VICE News spoke to Turner extensively about his perspective on Nevada’s gun laws, and his organization’s efforts to protect citizen’s rights to firearms.
His biggest concern: Nevada’s failure to prosecute gun dealers for selling weapons to people barred by law from owning firearms. According to the NFC’s, over the past two years Nevada had prosecuted under 200 people for illegally possessing a firearm, and had successfully made zero prosecutions against people who made those sales.
READ: Everything we know about Las Vegas gunman Stephen Paddock
VICE News asked Turner to explain the legalities of carrying a gun on the Las Vegas Strip. Turner explained that in Nevada you may open carry on the Strip’s sidewalk, but in private businesses or residences — places like casinos — it’s up to the property owner to set the rules.
In Nevada, only the state can set laws about firearms. Cities, towns, and counties cannot pass gun laws, but they can set restrictions about where guns may be discharged.
This led to an interesting issue in Las Vegas, where street performers, some dressed as Storm Troopers from Star Wars and the like, were spooking crowds with their fake guns. The county was able to pass a restriction against the open carry of toy guns but would not have been able to do the same with real firearms.