Reno Criminalizes Possessing Whips Without a Permit

Carrying this archaeologists' accessory in the city's downtown without government permission is now a misdemeanor.


The political wrangling in Congress over Democrats' multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda and continual supply chain bottlenecks have buried what should otherwise be front-page, national news: Reno, Nevada's crackdown on whips.

Earlier this month, the Reno City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits people from using or possessing whips in the city's downtown without first obtaining a city permit. The policy is in response to an increasing number of 911 calls by people mistaking the periodic snaps and cracks of whips as gunshots.

Reno City Attorney Karl Hall said that the new restrictions were commonsense whip control, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal. He stressed that the ban only applies in several downtown neighborhoods and that the archaeologists' accessory isn't restricted in other areas of the city where it might prove useful.

A city staff report says whips have grown in popularity in recent years, with people using them "in fights, for intimidation, and to practice 'cracking' the whip."

Whip-related calls to police have increased 61 percent from 2019. Reno police say that the people using them "are amateurs when it comes to proper use, and it is evident they do not possess it for any intended proper use."

The new restrictions have proven controversial. Council Member Jenny Brekhus voted against the ordinance because it didn't apply citywide, thus leaving whips dangerously unregulated in most of Reno.

Meanwhile, a representative for the state branch of the American Civil Liberties Union argued that banning the possession of whips without a permit, which is now a misdemeanor, only contributes to the criminalization of the homeless, reports CBS affiliate 8NewsNow. According to that representative, the city's homeless are known for using whips for self-defense.

Reno's new whip ban is certainly unusual, but it's not unique. Kaua'i County, Hawaii, passed a similar ban in 2018.

The Associated Press notes that the ban doesn't apply to private property, which makes it less offensive than it might otherwise be. But there's still plenty of reason to be worried about this expansion of state power.

There's a real possibility of increased police interactions with anyone thought to be possessing a now-prohibited whip.

That's particularly concerning given that most of the whips on Reno's streets are homemade from chains, leather straps, rope, and string, according to police. Is anyone possessing bundles of these materials going to be subject to snap law enforcement stops now? One could imagine local police harassing innocent citizens based on unfounded whip tips, or even conducting sting operations to corral violators.

There also isn't any grandfather clause in Reno's whip ban, meaning once-lawful whip-possessing citizens have now been made criminals.

It's understandable that Reno politicians and police would want to get a handle on excessive 911 calls. Whipping up a fake moral panic in order to do that is nevertheless a mistake.