It happens every session. There is always at least one bill that gets introduced and appears harmless on its face yet winds up taking way too long – often to the point of filibuster – to debate and advance. This year’s version – LB68 -- would override individual city and local ordinances, making firearm regulations consistent statewide.

Seems pretty innocuous. Lincoln Senator Mike Hilgers said the bill would authorize the state to regulate the registration, possession, transportation, transfer and storage of firearms and ammunition. Cities and villages would retain the authority to enforce prohibitions on firearm discharge. That will ensure public safety while also protecting the rights of lawful gun owners.

Sounds OK so far? I mean, who isn’t in favor of law and order? Public safety is just the icing on that cake. Protecting the rights of lawful gun owners … ah yes, that old Second Amendment argument could mean only one thing. There IS a national agenda here and it’s being pushed by the National Rifle Association.

Hilgers said the measure would give the Legislature exclusive authority over regulation of firearms, effectively wiping out local restrictions adopted by Nebraska municipalities. Sounds like giving up local control. And, just because the Legislature could do it, is that necessarily a good thing?

Nothing against Senator Hilgers who calls this "a common-sense bill" that would replace a patchwork of local gun laws that make it difficult for Nebraskans and other travelers to know what laws might apply to them as they enter different cities in the state. Stop. Is that really a problem?

Answer Mr., Mrs. Gun Owner or me, have you found yourself concerned or confused while traveling across the state with your gun? Is that even a thing?

Yes, I have owned, hunted with and fired a gun in my life. I married a woman who was vice president of her college gun club and has the eighth bar on her marksman award. She has brothers and other relatives who still hunt. Never once have we been sitting at the holiday feast table and lamenting the fact that we just don’t know where we can go with our guns.

So the NRA is behind it. But who’s against it and why? Start with a few senators who thought the bill should have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, which deals with such topics as guns and laws. Nope, it went to the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Hilgers is a member of that committee which is highly populated with members of the Gang of 29. Surely you remember the Gang of 29.

Oh, and then there’s the Omaha and Lincoln Police Departments – the state’s two largest – yes, they’re against it. In fact, the Omaha folks made enough noise that they got the OPD exempt from the bill. As amended before first-round advancement, the bill would maintain the city’s prohibition against possession of handguns in public places and a requirement that firearms in vehicles must be unloaded and locked up.

One could expect that Lincoln officials would likely entertain a similar exemption to keep people from bringing weapons into the Pinnacle Bank Arena during a sporting event or performance.

Senator Adam Morfeld of Lincoln said he’s listening to police officers who say that existing local laws are valuable tools. His colleague, Lincoln Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, said, “This is not the Wild West."

Still, Hilgers says he has anecdotal evidence that says citizens face an impermissible choice between having a firearm that is guaranteed to them under state and federal law and breaking local ordinances. He asks, do they break the law and exercise their right to a firearm or do they put themselves in danger and go unarmed?

Given that a similar measure was blocked by the 2016 Legislature, I’d rather see hard statistics on the problem, if it is indeed a problem.

I support the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns. We know that criminals will have guns, no matter the laws. I also support the right of local government to regulate those weapons in a way that best fits their community.

With the days dwindling down for lawmakers, I do NOT support the six hours of debate and cloture motion it took to advance the unnecessary measure from first round. There are more important issues to be dealt with. In case you have forgotten, budget and taxes and corrections all need legislative attention this year.

Spend your efforts where they are needed.

J.L. Schmidt has been covering Nebraska government and politics since 1979. He has been a registered independent for 18 years.

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