New Nevada Firearm Laws For 2020: Background Checks & “Red Flag” Protection Orders

In the 2019 session, the legislature passed (and the Governor signed) new Nevada firearm laws that take effect in January 2020. Everyone who buys, transfers, owns, or carries a firearm should be familiar with the new statutes.

Key provisions of the new legislation — background checks and “red flag” protection orders — took on greater significance following the horrific events in Las Vegas in October 2017. Nevada joined a select group of states that have adopted similar measures. A nationwide movement for adoption of these laws by all states is gaining momentum following the recent tragic mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Similar federal legislation awaits Congressional action.

Background Checks For Private Gun Sales and Transfers

More than two years after Nevada voters passed a ballot initiative to require background checks on private gun transactions, The Background Check Act finally takes effect on January 2, 2020. The new law generally reflects the ballot measure but changes language that required the FBI to conduct the checks. Under SB 143, passed and signed in February 2019, the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History will conduct the background checks.

The law requires an unlicensed dealer and private sellers to conduct a background check through a licensed firearms dealer for all private firearm sales and transfers. The statute contains limited exceptions, including:

  • Law enforcement agencies and peace officers
  • Antique gun transfers
  • Sale or transfer between immediate family members
  • Temporary transfers under specific circumstances

The law closes the so-called “gun show loophole” for private gun sales under federal law, which requires background checks for gun sales by federally licensed gun dealers but not for private sales by unlicensed sellers. As of 2020, unlicensed dealers selling at gun shows, online, and in other settings will be required to conduct background checks through a licensed dealer prior to transferring a firearm.

A first violation of the law will constitute a gross misdemeanor. Second or subsequent offenses will be a category C felony.

Major New Nevada Firearm Law For Gun Safety

The 2019 legislative session included passage of AB291, a bill described by its sponsor, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, as “the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in Nevada history.” Often referred to as the “1 October Bill,” the new law includes a number of provisions designed to address concerns that came to the forefront following the tragedy in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017. The provisions take effect on January 1, 2020.

Nevada State Bump Stock Ban

A key provision of the law implements a Nevada ban on bump stocks, the device used by the Las Vegas shooter in the 2017 massacre, and similar devices, parts, or combination of parts designed to increase the rate of fire of semiautomatic firearms. The state law supplements the federal bump stock ban that went into effect in March 2019.

The same section of the new law also prohibits anyone from “importing, selling, manufacturing, transferring, receiving, or possessing” semiautomatic firearms modified to materially increase the rate of fire or approximate the action of a machine gun. The section does not apply to employees of law enforcement agencies or U.S. Armed Forces members carrying out their official duties.

Firearm Storage

The new law also strengthens existing statutory provisions relating to storage of firearms. As of January 1, 2020, it will be a misdemeanor to negligently store or leave a gun in a location where there is a substantial risk that a child prohibited from handling or possessing a firearm may gain access to the firearm.

Alcohol Use and Gun Possession

The statute lowers the allowable blood or breath concentration of a person possessing a firearm from 0.10 to 0.08, under NRS 202.257. Possession of a gun while under the influence of alcohol (or a controlled substance) remains a misdemeanor.

Extreme Risk / Red Flag Provisions: Pre-Crime Protection Orders For High-Risk Behavior

The major portion of the new legislation implements provisions referred to as “Extreme Risk” or “Red Flag” laws. As of January 1, 2020, the law authorizes Nevada courts to issue protection orders when a person poses a risk of injury to himself, herself, or others, under circumstances specified in the law. The courts will have greater power to seize firearms in these situations.

Generally, the provisions authorize family or household members or law enforcement officers to intervene when an individual exhibits warning signs that commonly lead to violent acts. They also empower family members to get help for an at-risk individual in a time of need. Nevada joins a number of other states that adopted similar laws to help prevent mass shootings, school attacks, suicides, and more.

The law authorizes courts to issue orders of protection against high-risk behavior, which may include seizing guns from persons determined to be a danger to themselves or others. The protection order authority of the court extends to prohibiting possession or purchase of a firearm by a person who poses a risk of injuring himself, herself, or others.

Under the statute, a court may issue either an ex parte order (a temporary order, on motion of one party) or extended order for protection. The law details specific requirements and time lines for both types of orders.

The provisions in the statute relating to firearms and protection orders are complex. Violation of a protection order issued pursuant to the statute constitutes a criminal offense.

This new statute supplements existing Nevada laws relating to temporary and extended orders for protection, including domestic violence temporary protection orders and extended domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs).

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas Gun Law Attorney

Our practice at The Gersten Law Firm includes the full range of services relating to defending against firearm and gun charges, as well as family law matters involving temporary or extended protection orders.

Your initial consultation with attorney Joseph Gersten is always free of charge.  To discuss firearm charges or family law issues in Las Vegas or elsewhere in Clark County, contact us to schedule your free consultation.