Take a trip down Dean Martin Drive and it’s easy to see that Nevada likes its firepower. Guns here fill every survey box: recreation, hunting, protection and violence. They’re on billboards at the airport and in the headlines every morning. Chances are you know somebody who owns one—and could even be carrying right now.
For the Weekly’s first-ever Gun Issue, we dove headfirst into the messy stew of personal freedoms and public safety that makes up gun ownership in America. We sent reporters to an intensive firearms training at a desert compound and to a class where children the age of the Sandy Hook victims learn gun safety from an eagle named Eddie. We sat down with avid hunters, competitive shooters and victims of gun violence to talk about what guns mean to them. We found no easy answers to the questions that loom in Nevada and across the nation, but we did find people willing to talk. Perhaps that’s the first step.
Guns: A little bit of everything
I’ve been shooting since I was old enough to stand up. I can’t imagine not having a gun, especially with all the crime and home invasions around. We target shoot a lot. A lot of my friends shoot, and a lot of my friends I wouldn’t trust with a potato launcher.
Guns: Glock 17 and Glock 19
[Since 2000,] I’ve always wanted a gun just as a hobby. I go to the range. I’ve been wanting to shoot competitively; that’s one of the main reasons I have them. I first shot at 16 with a friend’s uncle. I don’t want to say I fell in love, but I was pretty excited.
Guns: Ruger 357 Magnum
My fiancé’s a police officer. [He] wanted me to get them just for protection. I hate having to feel like I need to carry a gun, but I do feel safer.
Gun Range Officer
Guns: Nine guns, including a Glock 17, Mossberg 590A1 and M&P15-22
The first time I ever shot any firearms was with the military. [I have guns for] self-defense first; everything else second. Trying to take away guns or restrict them, it really throws the balance off. Bad guys aren’t going to care.
Guns: A bunch, including an AK-47 pistol and four 1911s
I just love the Second Amendment. Just because someone comes into my house doesn’t mean I have to pull [my gun] out and use it. I take [my daughters] to the ranges. They already know what [a gun] does, so they don’t have that curiosity.
High School Student
Guns: Her family owns pistols, rifles and shotguns.
They wanted us to learn young. It’s scary. Just, like, it’s a weapon—not something you play around with. I’ll shoot if they ask me, but I’m not like, “Oh, I wanna go shooting.”
Guns: Around 20, including black powder rifles and trap single barrels
[At] 18, I started procuring a small collection [of guns] for hunting and target shooting. It was never security. [Having a gun is] like having an extra tank of gas. Does it make you feel safer? It’s a tool.
Internal Communications Specialist
Guns: Multiple guns
[In Chicago] the only people who own guns are cops and criminals. My initial motivation wasn’t self-defense or protection but recreation. It feels to me a little like golf. It’s just kind of a nice bonus to have a deadly weapon. I think gun control is a fine thing.
Retired Construction Worker
Guns: Hunting rifles, a .306 rifle and a shotgun
I was an avid hunter, but I’m not a hunter anymore. It’s not like fishing. Fishing you can be a sports fisherman where you can always catch and release. I am a target shooter. I love to go out and shoot my guns.
Guns: Smith & Wesson .40 caliber
Your neighbors are never friendly anymore. If they’re not friendly, you can’t trust them. I think I’m going to get more [guns]. If there’s a weapon around, you might as well know how to use it.
Guns: Service .45 1911, Blackhawk .44 Magnum, Remington 101, .22 varmint rifle
I grew up in a hunting and farming family; it’s part of our cultural identity. The .45 my dad gave me, that’s hands-down my favorite gun. [It’s] under my pillow just in case. I grew up in a house that had a loaded gun in every room.
Guns: Two 9mms and a shotgun
The 9mm is for self-defense. [I bought that when] I was living by myself, and I bought the shotgun because my family goes out shooting a lot. My coworkers call me “Banana Clip.” I carry a knife, too. It’s in the car.
High School Student
Guns: His family owns pistols, rifles and shotguns.
I’ve been shooting and hunting since I was 5 years old. My first gun was a Cricket .22 that I got for Christmas around 5. I respect guns. If [they’re] used incorrectly, they can be harmful to people.
Guns: Shotgun, couple handguns, AR-15, couple older hunting rifles
I grew up in a family that did a lot of hunting. It’s also a good form of protection. You can’t have a police officer with you all the time. I have two young sons. We take them out shooting. We teach them about safety. My wife loves to shoot; it’s good family bonding time.