Cop shooter was denied earlier attempt to buy gun

Harvey Ex, a felon killed by two law enforcement officers during a shootout Saturday at Harrah's Lake Tahoe, was turned away from at least one gun shop before buying the gun he reportedly used to wound the two deputies.

Richard Brengman, owner of Special Interest Arms in Gardnerville, said Ex appeared at his shop Friday around 6 p.m., and he remembered him as being quiet. At that hour, the computer system used for background checks was inaccessible.

"He was sent away empty-handed," Brengman said.

Ex lived in Southern California. Out-of-state residents cannot buy handguns over-the-counter in Nevada, according to gun shop employees.

The .32-caliber gun Ex obtained Saturday at Guns of Tahoe, near Round Hill, and used to shoot five rounds at the Douglas County sheriff's deputies is so old it doesn't have a manufacturer's stamp on it, sheriff's Sgt. Tom Mezzetta said.

Reached Sunday, Guns of Tahoe dealer Woody Peterson noted something "didn't seem right" about Ex, and he contacted dispatchers after the sale.

The gun Ex had had a top break, meaning rounds were loaded into the top of the gun by cracking it "like an egg," Mezzetta said.

Brengman was surprised the old gun could fire five shots.

"I'm pretty impressed he bought an antique gun that would work that well," he said.

With the guns classified as antiques, Ex was exempt from a background check since the Brady Bill, federal legislation mandating background checks for gun purchases, doesn't apply to guns made before 1898 or replicas.

Brengman said antique guns aren't considered dangerous, are usually purchased for decorative purposes, and can be mailed to interested buyers.

Antique guns are "like poker chips of deceased casinos," Brengman said. "They're nothing. They're like a lump of metal."

Ex was killed from the nine bullets deputies Erik Eissinger and Dan Nelson fired at Ex after he fired the first shot at Harrah's Lake Tahoe Diamond Lounge on Saturday afternoon.

Casino security was notified by a Ex's female companion, who said he was armed and displaying suicidal tendencies.

John Morreale at Gun Trader in Reno said he wouldn't have sold Ex a gun because it's the store's policy to conduct background checks on people purchasing fixed-ammunition guns.

"I don't care if it's an antique," Morreale said.

Both dealers said any person intent on buying a gun, and has the funds to do so, can get it.

"It's no different than buying drugs. If you want to buy crack, it's against the law, but you can do it," Morreale said.

"There's no such thing as gun control," Brengman said. "There's only people control. If you have $3,000 in your pocket and you want to buy a gun tonight, somebody will sell you one."

But according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Nevada can take more steps to ensure gun safety. In January, the organization advocating safe gun use gave Nevada a poor mark on laws protecting families and juveniles from gun violence.

"Nevada can improve its grade next year by banning assault weapons and rapid-fire ammunition magazines, requiring background checks at gun shows, and requiring child-safety locks to be sold with guns to prevent unintentional shootings," said Amy Ehlers of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence at the report's release date.

Twenty-three states joined Nevada in having a grade of D. In comparison, California received an A- for banning assault weapons and requiring handgun buyers to obtain a safety license, among other things.

Zach Ragbourn, a spokesman with the organization, said it's often up to states to enact laws to protect its residents from gun violence.

"(The Brady Bill) falls short in many ways," he said. "It could take years for Congress to address the issues, and we don't know how many criminals will get guns while Congress waits."

Ragbourn anticipated Nevada receiving the same grade. "There was not a single moment this year where Nevada solved a huge (gun) problem."

Brengman believes more laws will not deter determined people to obtain a gun.

"The thing about loopholes is a farce because you can buy one anytime," he said.


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