Nevada has some of the most relaxed gun laws in the country, a legislative condition that is sure to come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history on Sunday night in Las Vegas.
Nevada law does not require firearms owners to have licenses or register their weapons, nor does it limit the number of firearms an individual posses. Automatic assault weapons and machine guns are also legal in the state as long as they are registered and possessed in adherence to federal law, according to the National Rifle Association.
Nevada does not prohibit the transfer or possession of assault weapons, 50-caliber rifles or large-capacity ammunition magazines. Local law enforcement issues concealed handgun licenses. Open carry is legal without a permit.
Anti-gun activists did score a narrow victory last year by passing Question 1, a resolution calling for background checks through a licensed gun dealer for all sales in the state, even private and online sales.
Initial reports on social media appear to have shown that lone-wolf shooter Stephen Paddock used a high-caliber automatic weapon in the Las Vegas shooting. In shared footage of the attack, scores of rounds of ammunition can be heard going off in a matter of seconds.
Such weapons were previously prohibited under the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, which expired in 2004. Several lawmakers have attempted to renew the ban, coming closest, but still failing, after the Newtown school shooting in 2012.
The Coalition to Stop Gun violence has said it is “no surprise” that perpetrators of mass shootings favor such weapons. “Assault weapons are designed to maximize lethality; they are intended to kill as many humans as possible as quickly as possible,” the anti-gun group said.
The gun lobby has been deeply critical of new laws in Nevada enforcing the background checks, legislation supported by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The Question 1 initiative, which has not yet been enforced, is the subject of legal challenges, and it is unclear who would carry out the checks.
Nevada has carried out these checks since 1998. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the FBI, which the new legislation said would carry out the checks, has declined to do so because it is not federally mandated.