I-Team: 'Guns of Nevada' Series Kicks off Monday

Ed. Note: The national debate about gun violence and gun control has generated strong emotions on all sides following the recent tragedies in Connecticut and Colorado. Should Americans' Second Amendment rights be restricted in the interests of public safety, or is gun violence something that no law could curb?

During the week of Feb. 3, the I-Team is launching an in-depth examination of these volatile issues in an ongoing project, Guns of Nevada.

LAS VEGAS -- The litany, by now, is all too familiar.

Newtown, Conn.: 20 children and six adults gunned down at a school by an unhinged assailant inside Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Aurora, Colo.: A gunman turns a movie theater into a slaughterhouse. Six of the 19 people who were shot died.

Tucson, Ariz.: A shooter blasts away at a crowd that includes Rep. Gabby Giffords. Twelve people dead and 58 injured.

Las Vegas hasn't seen carnage of that magnitude, but it has come close. In just the past two weeks, there have been four incidents in which two or more people were shot.

What in the world is going on?

As with other issues in our polarized nation, the gun debate has been dominated by shrill voices on both fringes.

From the halls of power in Washington, D.C. to the sidewalks of Las Vegas, the arguments have produced consensus on just one point: the fact that there is no simple solution.

Nothing that has been proposed would prevent future Sandy Hook incidents. Extreme proposals banning certain weapons are considered dead in the water, but have prompted fears that the government is coming for our guns. Far fetched or not, that's been good for the gun business.

Gargantuan gun shows are a monthly fixture in Las Vegas, and these days, the crowds are even bigger than usual. After each tragedy, ammunition sales skyrocket.

Plush shooting lounges, like nightclubs with machine guns, have become tourist attractions in Las Vegas, especially for visitors from countries where such weapons are illegal.

Defenders of the Second Amendment have mobilized to make sure the rights of gun owners are not trampled.

"The most a gun can do on its own is to sit there and gather dust," said Randy Mackie, lobbyist for the Nevada Firearms Coalition. "Nothing can make it jump up and shoot you or shoot me. They sit there and are silent until somebody picks it up and does something with it. That can be something good or bad."

Across the country, some lawmen have declared they will not enforce gun edicts from Washington. More thoughtful public officials know it's a tough, but necessary, call.

In reality, when we have crazy people getting weapons that are capable of mass murder, I think we owe it to the citizenry to take a closer look," Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said. "We don't want to take people's rights of personal protection away, but if we have to do some regulation which provides for protection of the masses, I think it's worth looking at."

In Nevada, we don't even know how many guns are out there, but one astonishing figure blares out: Deaths by firearms, per capita, are 57 percent higher than the national average -- murders, suicides, accidents and a few in self defense -- the root causes are many, including a lack of mental health services, prescription drugs and cultural influences dominated by violence.

"It's absolutely a factor," said Michael Green, a history professor at the College of Southern Nevada. "People will watch a movie, a video game and think, ‘I can do this.'

Is this too big, too complicated for us to handle?

"We cannot look at the shooting in Newtown, we cannot look at the shooting in Colorado, we cannot look at the shooting in Virginia Tech a few years ago, and just throw up our hands and say, ‘We can't do anything. We just can't,'" said Brian Fadie, an anti-gun lobbyist for ProgressNow Nevada. "That's not the American way."

Starting the evening of Feb.4 and continuing over the next few months, the I-Team will look at guns and gun-related issues, the protections of the Second Amendment, gun violence and its root causes and ideas for making our community safer. Nothing will be off the table and no viewpoint will be left out.

During 8 News Now Monday morning, the I-Team will unveil the exclusive results of an opinion survey that reveals how Nevadans feel about guns. Some of the results are pretty surprising.

At 5 p.m. Monday, George Knapp kicks off the Guns of Nevada series with a look at the prevalence of guns in Nevada and just how many of them are out there.

Also included in the series is a compilation of statistics related to guns, crimes and other gun control issues.


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