It is a crime under Nevada gun laws merely to aim a firearm at a human being. It does not matter whether the gunman has zero intention of pulling the trigger. And if the prosecutor believes that the gunman did mean to scare or cause harm, the gunman may face harsher charges for the Nevada crimes of assault and battery or even the Nevada crime of attempted murder.
The two main defenses to charges of violating NRS 202.290 are:
- The defendant did not aim the gun at anyone, or
- The object the defendant aimed was not a gun
Note that self-defense can also be a defense in some circumstances.
It is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada to point a gun at another person. The sentence includes:
- up to 364 days in jail and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
On this page, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss the Nevada crime of aiming a firearm at a human being. Scroll down to learn the law, how to defend against charges, and ways the courts punish people convicted of it.
Definition of "Aiming a Firearm at a Human Being" in Nevada
Nevada outlaws aiming a gun, pistol, revolver, or other firearm at or towards another human being. It makes no difference whether the gun is loaded or not. Nor does it make a difference whether the person aiming the gun intends to discharge the weapon.1 Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of how easily this crime can attach to people with benign intentions.
Example: Mike and Ben are horsing around at a Las Vegas gun store. As a joke Mike draws a rifle, points it at Ben, and says, "Bang, bang, you're dead!" Ben laughs at the stunt, but the store owner calls Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, who book Mike at the Clark County Detention Center for aiming a gun at Ben.
Note that in the above example that Mike technically broke Nevada law simply by pointing the gun at Ben. The fact that the rifle was unloaded and uncocked does not reduce Mike's criminal liability. Nor does Ben's knowledge that Mike was just teasing him preclude a conviction.
Aiming a gun versus Assault, Battery, and Attempted Murder
Aiming a gun at someone is a separate crime from the Nevada violent offenses of assault, battery, and attempted murder:
The Nevada crime of assault requires putting the victim in immediate anticipation of harm. In contrast, pointing a gun at someone is a crime even if the "victim" does not feel threatened or does not realize a gun is being aimed at him/her.2 And whereas the Nevada crime of battery requires an unlawful physical touching, pointing a gun at someone is a crime even if no touching of the gun or bullet to the victim occurs.3
As for the Nevada crime of attempted murder, a defendant should only be convicted if he/she was pointing the gun with the intent to kill. While the act of aiming a firearm at someone may appear like attempted murder, without any homicidal intent it legally falls outside the scope of attempted murder.4 Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates the distinction:
Example: As part of Jeff's initiation into a North Las Vegas street gang, Jeff goes to a lone pedestrian on the street at night and aims his gun at him. The pedestrian screams for his life and runs to call the North Las Vegas Police Department, who find Jeff and book him at the North Las Vegas Detention Center for attempted murder. In truth, Jeff had no intention of harming the pedestrian at all; he just did it to show the gang he was tough enough to join. So technically, Jeff is guilty of only pointing the gun at the pedestrian (and perhaps assault, since the pedestrian clearly feared for his safety).
In the above example, the prosecutor would bear the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeff intended to kill the pedestrian. Since intention is difficult to prove due to its intangible nature, the D.A. and defense rely on circumstantial evidence to back up their arguments. For instance, if the gun was not loaded, it would suggest that Jeff could not have had any intention of killing the pedestrian.
Defenses for "Aiming a Firearm at a Human Being" in Nevada
It is not a defense to NRS 202.290 charges that the defendant accidentally aimed the gun at someone or had no intention of pulling the trigger. Therefore, the typical strategies to fight these charges are the following:
- Gun not aimed at person. NRS 202.290 applies only if the defendant aimed a firearm at someone. Perhaps the defendant aimed the gun at a non-human target, and witnesses were just mistaken about the direction of the gun. Maybe even surveillance video exists that proves the defendant never aimed the gun at a person. If the D.A. cannot show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant aimed the gun at a human being, charges should not stand.
- Not a gun. Aiming a knife or toy gun does not fall under the scope of NRS 202.290. If the defense attorney can show that whatever object the defendant aimed at the victim does not qualify as a firearm, the case should be dismissed.
Penalties for "Aiming a Firearm at a Human Being" in Nevada
Pointing a gun at someone is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. The penalty includes:
- up to 364 days in jail and/or
- up to $2,000 in fines
Note that an NRS 202.290 conviction should not jeopardize the defendant's right to own or possess a gun.
Also, note that the punishment for attempted murder is much harsher than just aiming a gun at a person. As a category B felony in Nevada, attempted murder carries:
- 2 to 20 years in Nevada State Prison and
- an additional penalty of 1 to 20 years for using a deadly weapon.
Note that the additional penalty for using a deadly weapon may be no longer than the underlying base penalty for attempted murder.
Arrested? Call an attorney for help...
Have you been charged with "pointing a gun at someone" in Nevada? For a FREE consultation, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We may be able to get the charge reduced or dismissed without the time or expense of a trial.
Also see our article on the Nevada crime of discharging a firearm in public.
For information about California gun laws, see our article on California gun laws.
1 NRS 202.290 Aiming firearm at human being; discharging weapon where person might be endangered; penalty. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 202.287, a person who willfully:
1. Aims any gun, pistol, revolver or other firearm, whether loaded or not, at or toward any human being; or
2. Discharges any firearm, air gun or other weapon, or throws any deadly missile in a public place or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby, although an injury does not result,
--> is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
2NRS 200.471 Assault: Definitions; penalties.
1. As used in this section:
(a) “Assault” means:
(1) Unlawfully attempting to use physical force against another person; or
(2) Intentionally placing another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate bodily harm.
3NRS 200.481 Battery: Definitions; penalties.
1. As used in this section:
(a) “Battery” means any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.
4NRS 200.030 Degrees of murder; penalties.
1. Murder of the first degree is murder which is:
(a) Perpetrated by means of poison, lying in wait or torture, or by any other kind of willful, deliberate and premeditated killing;
(b) Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of sexual assault, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, invasion of the home, sexual abuse of a child, sexual molestation of a child under the age of 14 years, child abuse or abuse of an older person or vulnerable person pursuant to NRS 200.5099;
(c) Committed to avoid or prevent the lawful arrest of any person by a peace officer or to effect the escape of any person from legal custody;
(d) Committed on the property of a public or private school, at an activity sponsored by a public or private school or on a school bus while the bus was engaged in its official duties by a person who intended to create a great risk of death or substantial bodily harm to more than one person by means of a weapon, device or course of action that would normally be hazardous to the lives of more than one person; or
(e) Committed in the perpetration or attempted perpetration of an act of terrorism.