Firearm Policies: To Protect or Perpetuate? – Gun Laws in Two States

On Oct. 1, 58 people were shot and killed. Over 546 others were injured. Today, the conversation on gun control continues.

Stephen Paddock perpetrated America’s worst mass shooting with a legally purchased AR-15 semi- automatic rifle. From his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, Paddock fired upon civilians.

Compared to Washington, Nevada gun laws are relatively open. Anyone over 18 can openly carry without a permit. They’re also allowed to conduct business with gun retailers and private sellers without a background check.

In Nevada, individuals need training and a license to carry a concealed handgun, while open carrying in public is legal with no restrictions other than age.

Meanwhile, according to Washington handgun laws, 18-year-olds may still purchase from private sellers but you have to be 21 to carry a loaded handgun.

Washington state administrative rules prohibit firearms on most colleges or universities. Currently, South Puget Sound Community College is the only campus in the state to not specifically ban guns.

However, Nevada’s gun laws allow those with the concealed carry license to carry them within the vicinity of schools and colleges, though open carry is not permitted.

The difference between Nevada and Washington’s firearm policies is that Nevada takes less precaution when issuing permits, failing to enforce federally-required background checks and giving ownership rights to individuals as young as 18.

But despite Washington’s firmer gun laws, there have been several shootings in past years at Washington public universities and high schools. Recently, two male teenagers received non-fatal shooting injuries at Washington State University in Pullman as they were attempting to break up a fight near a vehicle outside of a party.

On Sept. 13 at Freeman High School in Spokane, sophomore Caleb Sharpe shot and killed a teenage boy and injured three girls with the semi-automatic rifle and handgun he stole from his father.

In April 2007, UW student Rebecca Griego died in a murder-suicide shooting committed by her ex-boyfriend, who was stalking her.

Student Thoughts

Firearm violence has hit close to home. Despite the Las Vegas shooting occurring several states away, it also reached international headlines, due to the city’s status as one of the biggest tourist destinations in the world.

SCC first-year student Isaiah Duncan said he knew a few co-workers from his job in Las Vegas at the time the shooting occurred. The event struck Duncan as “concerning, hitting hard with people I definitely care about.”

Duncan supports Washington’s gun policies, including the right to open carry, as he sees them as protection in the event that a mass shooting ever occurs.

However, Duncan said he wants “more extensive background (checks).”

“After seeing the news alerts,” Duncan said, “ I was freaked for the country.”

Despite the moderately low number of collegiate shootings in Washington since the early ‘80s, events like the Las Vegas shooting get students thinking about the “what-if’s” or possibilities of these tragic events.

Most people found out about the shooting through social media, including SCC student Reginald Cooper. Cooper was notified of the shooting through his phone via Facebook post, though he initially believed it was a terrorist attack.

“I believe these types of shootings, even though (they’re) reprehensible and tragic, are almost impossible to predict,” Cooper said.

And he’s not alone in thinking this.

“It’s impossible to monitor everyone,” student Elvis Pilgrim said.

In efforts to protect its student population, SCC strictly prohibits any and all weaponry, with violations resulting in disciplinary action, being escorted off campus or being arrested, according to SCC’s website.

As for other security measures in place on campus, the Ebbtide was unable to reach Head of Security Edwin Lucero for comment.


Washington state’s gun policies lay down firm regulations for anyone looking to purchase, handle or carry a concealed firearm. Background checks are necessary, as well as having no record of major misdemeanors and abuse of unlawful substances.

Although Washington’s gun laws have a firmer grasp on open-carrying individuals than Nevada does, there is still a lurking lack of control. “Sometimes people snap out of nowhere,” Duncan said. “(They) can be unpredictable, which is the worst possibility to prepare for.”

Take, for example, the motives of the Las Vegas shooter’s, which still remain unknown.

Without knowing the reason why behind Paddock’s actions, there won’t be a proper closing of this chapter in American history.

And despite the issuing of background checks in Washington state and SCC’s rules preventing the presence of firearms on campus, excluding certain situations, the fear has already been planted in everyone’s mind. Following Las Vegas and a pattern of U.S. shootings, the public has learned to accept that mass shootings are possible anywhere and anytime.

Public safety is affected when the cautionary barriers of federal and state laws are broken, opening the door for dangerous behavior which could threaten lives. Lately, shootings have become more prevalent. In the beginning of November, the deadliest mass shooting in Texas history took 26 lives at a small rural Baptist church. In a northern California elementary school, four adults were killed and 10 others were injured on Nov. 14.

Although SCC has not had this sort of situation occur, the question of safety remains as an underlying thought. The 58 individuals who lost their lives in the Las Vegas mass shooting could have been any individual in any other state. Shootings aren’t limited to one specific area or event.

Firearm policies restrain unsuitable candidates from legally accessing guns, however, those policies are
not always as effective. In the most recent shootings at the tail-end of 2017, all of the firearms purchased were legally obtained and those members of society were deemed suitable for holding a weapon.

Guns don’t perpetuate violence, but gun owners do. Public safety needs to be further protected, due to the rising instability of gun-related murders.