(Don Turner, Nevada Firearms Coalition) – During the last days of Nevada’s 2013 legislative session, an intense political battle was waged between the well-funded Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) and citizen gun owners of Nevada.
Senate Bill 221, proposed by Senator Justin Jones, was supported by New York City Mayor Bloomberg who sent 11 lobbyists, including two New York City employees to Carson City. SB 221 was a gun control wrapped up in a mental health bill. Although this was a major effort by MAIG, only two Nevada Mayors are members of his organization, Mayor Robert Crowell of Carson City and Mayor Carolyn Goodman of Las Vegas. The bill was opposed by the Republican delegation, gun owners, civil libertarians, tea party members, and the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chief’s Association and was subsequently vetoed by Governor Sandoval. While the bill was waiting the governor’s action, his staff established a public opinion poll. The people asking for a veto outnumbered the calls for passage by a margin of five to one despite an intensive MAIG advertising campaign.
MAIG’s Statement of Principles says that 30,000 Americans are killed each year as a result of gun violence. Their seven principles are based on punishing criminals, increasing enforcement, and developing more regulations and restrictions on private firearms use and ownership.
There is an old saying that “if your only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails.” The United States Conference of Mayors at its annual June meeting in Las Vegas had a press release that indicated they were looking for ways to regulate firearms, thus continuing with the “hammer” perspective of regulations being the solutions to their problems. In response, the Nevada Firearms Coalition (a statewide firearm owner’s coalition) urged the Mayors to look at innovative solutions rather than regulations.
Nevada’s Hunter Education Program administered by the Nevada Department of Wildlife is an example of public-private relationships that provide a model for success. Tracing its beginnings back to 1928 when an employee of the Pennsylvania game agency developed a code of ethics for the Izaak Walton League of America, this code marked the beginning of ideas about hunting safety.
By the 1940’s, Kentucky was offering gun safety training in their high school junior cubs and in boys and girls summer camps. In 1947, a partnership between New York State and the National Rifle Association developed their states’ curriculum. These various state programs eventually evolved into the International Hunter Education Association that now serves 69 agencies and has over 70,000 volunteer instructors around the world.
A recent study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation revealed that hunting accidents decreased significantly over time where now hunting has an injury rate of 0.05 percent, a safety level bettered only by camping (0.01 percent) and billiards (0.02 percent). Hunting is safer than football, baseball, tennis, golf or swimming.
The Nevada Firearms Coalition has written to Mayors Crowell and Goodman to request that they consider the concept of following the successful innovations of the hunter safety programs that significantly reduced firearms accidents in the field, and put that concept to work in the cities to reduce firearms accidents.
As mayors oversee city programs and properties, there are resources of their Parks & Recreation Departments, and training spaces as provided in their community centers that could readily be used for firearms safety awareness programs at very little cost.
The Nevada Firearms Coalition offered to assist the mayors in the pursuit of firearms safety. There is an opportunity to abandon the “hammer” of regulation, and move forward with proven programs of safety education. The choice is theirs and their decision will show the citizens of the State of Nevada, whether they are sincere about reducing firearms accidents, or will continue to view their citizens as “nails.” We look forward to their response.
Don Turner is president of Nevada Firearms Coalition (NVFAC), a membership organization of firearms owners, supporters, users, public and private gun clubs and commercial shooting sports enterprises who are interested in promoting and protecting the ownership and safe use of firearms for self-defense, competition, recreation, and hunting. Visit www.NVFAC.org for more information about the group.