By Mark Waite
Local activist Sam Jones, who openly carries a sidearm, urged a newly-seated county commission Monday to take down signs banning carrying weapons into the Nye County courthouse and sheriff’s department.
“Hopefully this will start the new year out right,” Jones said under public comment. “I know it’s the county commissioners’ job to set policies, not the judges and the sheriff and the DA.”
Jones referred to a county resolution passed in 1994 that stated all citizens had the right to have arms of their choice.
“In order to provide for the emergency management of the county of Nye and further in order to provide for and protect the safety, security and general welfare of Nye County and its inhabitants, every citizen residing in Nye County will be allowed to maintain firearms of their choice, together with ammunition.”
The resolution exempts people with a physical or mental disability that would prohibit them from using firearms or people convicted of a felony. County Commissioner Butch Borasky wants to strengthen that ordinance to send a statement to the state and federal government about the right to bear arms, but not specifically because of signage at the courthouse.
“We would have to go into an ordinance, then the judge still has the ability to supersede whatever we do,” Borasky said. “My thought is to just give an updated, stiff response to the state and federal governments, don’t tread on us. We have our second amendment rights and that’s not supposed to change.”
Fifth District Judge Robert Lane put the sign up about the ban on weapons in the courthouse.
“About five years ago, the Nevada Supreme Court said District Court judges needed to strengthen the security at the courthouse, because of all the shootings,” his bailiff Kenny Taylor said. “If someone does violate it, it is a contempt order, they can be fined or jailed. There isn’t metal detectors, if we discover one itself, you’ve pretty much committed contempt at that time.”
The county briefly set up metal detectors at the entrance to the courthouse but they were taken down due to a lack of manpower.
Taylor said many rural counties lack strict security, while in big cities, like at the justice center in Las Vegas, lines of people wait to clear metal detectors.
Jones also criticized a sign in front of the sheriff’s office banning weapons and videotaping. Sheriff Tony DeMeo said he has the right under NRS 202.3673 to post the signs.
The statute allows a permittee to carry a concealed firearm while on the premises of any public building except at an airport, a public school, child care facility, or property of the Nevada System of Higher Education, unless they have written permission. They also cannot carry a concealed weapon into a public building with a metal detector at each public entrance or a sign posted at each public entrance indicating that no firearms are allowed in the building.
Judges, prosecutors and employees of that building are allowed to carry concealed firearms, or any person who has written permission from the person in control of the building.
DeMeo broadened his weapons ban to include videotaping after someone came into the sheriff’s office with recording equipment.
“We’ve had people come into our facility where we have victims of crime and children and they were videotaping people. You just can’t do that,” DeMeo said. Witnesses were concerned about it as well, he said.
The sheriff added, “The way they carry firearms, they carry them so loosely, their firearm could be taken away from them.”
DeMeo said he once worked for the fifth precinct in Jersey City when there was a machine gun attack.
“From my perspective, I advised Judge Lane, just put a sign up because once you put metal detectors up you’re not going to be able to man them too long,” DeMeo said.
Probably the most conspicuous local pistol-toting court patron is Ray “The Flagman” Mielzynski, who spends his free time monitoring court cases each week. He stopped carrying his gun into the courthouse after the sign went up advertising the ban in 2010.
Mielzynski said county commissioners back in 1999 voted to allow carrying guns in the courthouse. But in 2002, after the county courthouse was closed due to black mold, when it reopened, signs were placed at different offices prohibiting weapons, he said, at a time when he carried his gun openly around the courthouse.
Mielzynski said he complained to former District Attorney Bob Beckett the signs were illegal. They were taken down and he received apologies from the department heads.
“Lane has no authority to put the sign in the door,” Mielzynski said. ” District Attorney Kunzi researched it and he said he can’t find any authority to put those signs in the door.”
But Mielzynski said Kunzi, the current DA, told him the sheriff would arrest him if he carried his gun into the courthouse and there would be a big turmoil.
“He said I don’t have authority over the sheriff, I can only act after the fact,” Mielzynski said.
Mielzynski recalled incidents in both district courtrooms where his practice of openly carrying a firearm was questioned. Attorney Louis Minicozzi III once insinuated he was carrying a gun in District Judge Kimberly Wanker’s court, Mielzynski said. Lane confronted him once about it in the courtroom.
“You have the liability if somebody comes in and starts whacking people, because nobody’s armed,” Mielzynski said. “Your bailiff is the only one who is armed.”
The bailiffs would protect the judge, he said, adding otherwise “there’s no security in that building.”
“The reason the guns were banned in the courtroom per se is because they got permission from commissioners to ban them in the courtroom, not in the courthouse. Now DeMeo is taking it a step further by banning guns in all the offices around him.”
Mielzynski made another technical point, the statute addresses concealed weapons, not open carry. He said concealed weapons are considered a privilege in the State of Nevada, open carrying of firearms is a right.
During a county commission meeting a few years ago, former Commissioner Peter Liakopoulos asked for security at the meetings when Jones confronted him during a break and had a heated argument while carrying a sidearm. A sheriff’s deputy was stationed at the county meetings for a time as security, then it was discontinued.
Attempts to ban carrying of weapons into buildings in the past where public meetings were held, like the Bob Ruud Community Center, brought out crowds of gun advocates who displayed their guns, Mielzynski said.
“I don’t bring my gun in with me, I stand outside the door with both of my guns, the Bill of Rights and the flag and I greet people as they come in,” the Flagman said.
“You see me outside with my guns but I take them off and put them in the trunk of the car, even though this court is not supposed to have that sign out there.”
Mielzynski suggested commissioners either put up metal detectors or take down the sign.
Jones was frequently in the courthouse parking lot this past summer, standing under a tent collecting signatures for five petitions.
He also did a voluntary poll of voters leaving the courthouse during early voting.