In Nevada, assault weapons are generally legal. But the purchase of a machine gun is highly regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and can take several months to complete. The process includes a
- background check,
- fingerprinting, and
- approval from the local chief law enforcement officer.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Are assault weapons legal in Nevada?
- 2. What are machine guns? How do I get one?
- 3. What kinds of guns can I legally own in Nevada?
- 4. Are bump stocks legal?
1. Are assault weapons legal in Nevada?
There are no Nevada state laws or local laws or ordinances that prohibit “assault weapons,” a term that typically refers to automatic weapons like machine guns.
But federal law prohibits the possession of machine guns unless they were lawfully possessed and registered before May 19, 1986.1
Unlawful possession of a machine gun is a serious federal felony. It can be punished by:
- Up to 10 years in Federal Prison, and/or
- A fine of up to $250,000.2
2. What are machine guns? How do I get one?
Federal law defines a machine gun as:
[A]ny weapon which shoots, is designed to shoot, or can be readily restored to shoot, automatically more than one shot, without manual reloading, by a single function of the trigger. The term shall also include the frame or receiver of any such weapon, any part designed and intended solely and exclusively, or combination of parts designed and intended, for use in converting a weapon into a machine gun, and any combination of parts from which a machine gun can be assembled if such parts are in the possession or under the control of a person.
Before you can transfer a lawfully owned machine gun, the gun must be registered with, and you must obtain a permit from, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (“ATF”). There is usually a $200 excise tax to transfer a machine gun.
You must also obtain ATF approval before engaging in the interstate transport of a machine gun.
Before taking any weapon to another state – including a lawfully owned machine gun or assault weapon — you should check to make sure the weapon is legal in such other states. Many states – including California – have weapons laws that are more restrictive than Nevada’s.3
See our related article, Are submachine guns legal in Colorado?
3. What kinds of guns can I legally own in Nevada?
Unless legally prohibited from possessing a firearm, people in Nevada 18 years of age and older may possess any kind of guns.4 This includes all semi-automatic firearms, including those with a detachable ammunition magazine and pistol grip.
However, you are prohibited under federal law from purchasing or possessing armor-piercing ammunition. Federal law defines armor-piercing ammo as:
- a projectile or projectile core that may be used in a handgun and which is constructed entirely (excluding the presence of traces of other substances) from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper, or depleted uranium; or
- a full jacketed projectile larger than .22 caliber designed and intended for use in a handgun and whose jacket has a weight of more than 25 percent of the total weight of the projectile.5
“The term “armor piercing ammunition” does not include shotgun shot required by Federal or State environmental or game regulations for hunting purposes, a frangible projectile designed for target shooting, a projectile which the Attorney General finds is primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes, or any other projectile or projectile core which the Attorney General finds is intended to be used for industrial purposes, including a charge used in an oil and gas well perforating device.”6
4. Are bump stocks legal?
No. Bump stocks are now illegal in Nevada under both Nevada state- and federal law.
Bump stocks were legal in Nevada prior to 2020. But the recent spate of mass shootings and gun violence (including gunman Stephen Paddock’s Las Vegas shooting of concertgoers at Mandalay Bay in 2017) propelled Nevada voters to demand that the legislature pass tougher gun control laws.7
Nevada lawmakers also recently passed a red flag law, which allows courts to prevent high-risk people displaying violent tendencies or poor mental health from having guns. And now with the Uvalde, Texas school shooting, people are pressing for an outright assault weapons ban (including AR-15s).8
Although Nevada is a largely pro-gun, shall-issue state, prosecutors take violations of firearm laws very seriously and are suspicious of self-defense claims. If you are facing charges involving deadly weapons or illegal gun sales, contact our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys. We represent clients in Clark County and throughout the state of Nevada.
- Are silencers and suppressors legal in Nevada?
- Do I need an FBI “background check” to buy a gun in Nevada?
- Nevada open carry laws
- How to get a concealed carry permit (including taking a gun safety class)
- Carrying a concealed weapon without a CCW
- Concealed firearm reciprocity
- Altering a gun serial number
- Possession of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances (a misdemeanor)
- When can law enforcement agency officers use deadly force?
- Bringing weapons to schools or child care facilities
- 18 U.S. Code 922 (o). See also the Second Amendment (Right to Bear Arms).
- 18 U.S. Code 924 (a)(2).
- 26 U.S.C. 5845 (b). See also 18 U.S. Code 921 (a)(23). Machine Guns, ATF.gov.
- People under 18 may usually possess a weapon for hunting, competition or home defense with the permission of their parents or legal guardian. For more information, please refer to our page on Nevada gun laws.
- 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(17)(B).
- 18 U.S. Code 921(a)(17)(C).
- NRS 202.274. Bump Stocks, ATF.gov. Kyndell Kim & Steve Wolford, Gov. Sisolak signs ‘One October Bill’ banning bump stocks in Nevada, News 3 (June 14, 2019). Note that Nevada has no law regulating large capacity magazines.
- Nevada Legislature Assembly Bill 291 (2019). NRS 33.500 – NRS 33.670. For different perspectives, see also the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and National Rifle Association.