Monday, October 26, 2015

Libraries and the Law

Clark County gun owners’ dispute is not about guns in the libraries, but about uniform application of state law. The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District’s ban on openly carried firearms is arbitrary and capricious with no sound basis in law. In their email, detailed in this post, state that: “NRS 379.040 (quoted below) requires the Trustees of the Library District to guarantee that libraries are free and accessible to the public.” The denial of those legally openly carrying firearms is being based upon an especially broad interpretation of NRS 379.040, which permits “[…] reasonable regulations as the trustees of the library may adopt.” This statute is not carte blanche for libraries to adopt rules that suit their whims.

Unauthorized Policies

The library trustees adopted Rule of Conduct #3, which states: “3. Firearms are prohibited as outlined in NRS 202.3673.” I call attention to the words “as the trustees of the library may adopt.”
NRS 202.3673 (in part)
1. Except as otherwise provided in subsections 2 and 3, a permittee may carry a concealed firearm while the permittee is on the premises of any public building.
(b) A public building that has a metal detector at each public entrance or a sign posted at each public entrance indicating that no firearms are allowed in the building, unless the permittee is not prohibited from carrying a concealed firearm while he or she is on the premises of the public building pursuant to subsection 4. 
As the library rule itself refers to a section of state law that prohibits only concealed firearms, the library rule, by its own wording, cannot be referring to openly carried firearms.

In the letter linked at the top of the post, the district administrator stated that: “The Library District bans bringing or possessing on Library District owned premises any deadly or dangerous weapon, loaded or unloaded, or ammunition or material for a weapon.” Actual district policy makes no such mention of,  and does not ban, bringing or possessing ammunition or material for a weapon. An administrator cannot make such a policy on their own authority. This assertion is either a gross misunderstanding by the administrator or a total fabrication and demonstrates the district administration is acting without any regard to the law.

At no time have the trustees adopted a ban of the open carry of firearms. Only the trustees have the power to enact regulations under NRS 379.040; not administration employees. Individual staff members are not authorized by law to independently interpret library policy or create any unofficial practices regarding patron conduct. Since library rules do not prohibit openly carried firearms, staff members removing patrons engaged in such lawful activity are doing so without justification under NRS 379.040. 


NRS 379.040 also requires that a “library must forever be and remain free and accessible to the public […].” Denying access to a library based solely upon the fact a patron is legally openly carrying a firearm violates the law. Perversely, the district has quoted the second clause, “reasonable regulations [etc.],” to justify their ban. They can’t choose which part of the public gets free access to the library. It is a grotesque misapplication of the law to quote one half of a statute to justify violating its other half.

A library would be perfectly justified under its own policy and under law to remove someone engaged in inappropriate handling of their firearm or creating some other kind of disruptive or rude behavior. Yet in none of the incidents where a person openly carrying a firearm was asked to leave was disorderly conduct cited.

Preemption Applies

It is hard to reconcile exactly how a rule in direct violation of state law (and violating state and federal constitutional rights) can be considered ‘reasonable.’ The library district has repeatedly stated that they defend their ban based on NRS 379.040 and have made no denial that the provisions of state firearm preemption statutes do not apply to them. Preemption certainly does apply to the library district in case they suddenly choose to question that fact.

State preemption of local firearm laws explicitly prohibits the district’s behavior. In fact, the legislature made its intent explicitly clear, while NRS 379.040 is vague. The fact that NRS 244.364 and 268.418 are coded respectively within the NRS titles for counties and cities does not abrogate the language of subsections (a) through (c) which are identical to each. The legislature made its intent to invalidate any local regulation of firearms, except unsafe discharge of firearms, and reserve all right of firearm regulation to itself. I’m sure the library would love to imagine itself exempt, which it can’t reasonably do.

The library distrust asserts in its budget publication that “the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District is neither a part of the city of Las Vegas nor of Clark County.” Perhaps they meant subordinate to? NRS 379.0221 states that the method of consolidation was to merge the city into the county library district; the county library district just got bigger. 
NRS 379.0221 The trustees of a county library district in any county whose population is 700,000 or more and the governing body of any city within that county may, to establish and maintain a public library, consolidate the city into the county library district. 
The county library district was never abolished by law, but rather incorporated the existing other districts into itself, thus becoming ‘consolidated.’ This wasn’t a marriage, but an adoption.

I also argue that as a consolidated county-city library district, NRS 244.364 and 268.418 both apply to the district because the district is the library district for Clark County, the city of Las Vegas, and the city of North Las Vegas, and the district trustees are appointed and may be removed by the county board of commissioners.

Furthermore, any denial that a city-county consolidated library district is exempt from state preemption of firearm regulation because the statutes themselves do not specifically enumerate their application to “consolidated library districts” is ludicrous. If that were the case, any sub-municipal district could violate any section of the NRS that it chose, so long as the particular statute didn’t directly apply to the given type of district. It would be impractical for the legislature to name every type district in the state. If it were not the case, it would be justifiable to create a ‘consolidated gun control district’ and ban the carry of firearms anytime, anywhere in the county.

The Supreme Court of Nevada held that: statutes “should be interpreted so as to effect the intent of the legislature in enacting them; the interpretation should be reasonable and avoid absurd results.” Las Vegas Sun v. District Court. Randomly deciding that preemption doesn’t apply to sub-municipal districts would be unreasonable, absurd, and ignorant of the legislature’s intent.

In light of this, one must note that subsection (c) of NRS 244.364 and 268.418 identically states: “This section must be liberally construed to effectuate its purpose.” What was the legislature’s purpose again?

"[T]o establish state control over the regulation of and policies concerning firearms, [...] to ensure that such regulation and policies are uniform throughout this State and to ensure the protection of the right to keep and bear arms [...]" and "the Legislature reserves for itself such rights and powers as are necessary to regulate the [...] possession, carrying [..] of firearms."

In light of the above, the library district cannot continue to justify the validity of its behavior in direct contravention to state law.

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