Home > Opinion > The evolving threat of gun violence demands vigilance (opinion)

The evolving threat of gun violence demands vigilance (opinion)

By ThisIsReno

Submitted by Mike Haley, former Washoe County Sheriff

In my 35 years of experience as a law enforcement officer, I saw the countless lives lost to guns. In the same experience, carrying a gun was a way to protect myself from the dangers we face daily.

Addressing gun violence doesn’t mean taking your guns away. It means saving lives. Perhaps your child’s life, your life, your sister’s, or your friend’s life. Everyone is facing this crisis. It’s not confined to urban areas, schools, or certain public places. We have seen shooting after shooting in the US with very little action to address it.

Now that we have background checks in Nevada and 20 other states, we are seeing an influx of ghost guns. These firearms are untraceable, sold as kits, and cheaply purchased over the internet. You can order a ghost gun as easily as you can order your favorite workout equipment on Amazon Prime. Background checks are designed to stop prohibited people from purchasing firearms. But when those guns don’t even have serial numbers, we have a problem. 

Nevada passed Assembly Bill 286 (AB286) in the 81st Legislative Session, effectively banning ghost guns. Thankfully, our leaders saw the issue: ghost guns circumvent background checks and prohibited people are having a field day with how easy they are to purchase. Other cities and states have passed similar laws to stop the flow of these weapons.

Gov. Steve Sisolak signs AB 286 which bans 'ghost guns,' on June 7, 2021.
Gov. Steve Sisolak signs AB 286 which bans ‘ghost guns,’ on June 7, 2021. Image: Nevada Governor’s Office

The ease with which they are purchased makes ghost guns particularly easy to traffic into communities around the country. This has devastating consequences. It is increasingly difficult for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) to keep up, which is why they proposed a rule to stem the flow of ghost guns earlier this year. Nevada was ahead of the curve on this particular issue. Thanks to strong leadership at the state level, from Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, we saw action taken that will help reinforce our existing laws regarding firearms.

More and more we are seeing that ghost guns are being used for violent crimes. The LAPD saw a 400% increase in ghost gun recoveries since 2017. By circumventing background checks people can easily purchase these weapons without risking failing a background check.

Doing nothing, given the increase and the propensity for these weapons to be used in violent crimes, is making communities more dangerous and more unstable. It was crucial for Nevada to stand up and address this as the biggest manufacturer of ghost guns operates on our soil and currently the company is facing multiple lawsuits in California and other states who are looking to stop the violence.

Economically, gun violence is costing everyone significant amounts of money as well. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, gun violence costs the United States $280 billion each year. It costs Nevada $1,308 per person, ranking us 9th in cost per person compared to other states. Not only is this a problem of lost lives, grieving families, and trauma, it is also an economic issue. More guns in the wrong hands equals more violence, which increases the economic toll this problem takes on our state and country.

Ghost guns were the perfect answer to comprehensive background checks. Knowing that, we must support comprehensive solutions like AB286 that address the unserialized gun market. 

Mike Haley served the public for 34 years in every aspect of law enforcement and held top secret security clearance both in the military and public safety. Most recently, Haley served two terms as the senior law enforcement executive in Nevada’s second largest metropolitan area.

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

Related Stories