Every year, the Legislature has numerous bills addressing the education of our youth, juvenile justice issues and so on. Several bills introduced this year seem especially poignant, based on the recent events in our country.
On Valentine's Day, 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and staff were gunned down in Broward County, Florida. The response across the nation is adamant that we must do more to head off school shootings.
I suspect that the topic of school safety will appear this month in some form on board of education meeting agendas all across the country. Parents rightfully want assurances that there won’t be a mass shooting at their children’s schools, and are sounding off. I feel the same way. I want my first grade granddaughter and third grade grandson to be as safe as possible, along with all of the other boys and girls and school staff members everywhere.
I sense this country is at a tipping point on what they are willing to do to prevent school violence. President Trump, an ardent Second Amendment rights supporter, has said he supports requiring a person to be age 21 to purchase a weapon, and that he is open to discussions about assault rifles. Retailers are taking a harder stance on firearm sales. School students are stepping up as never before to say there must be changes to stop the mass shootings. All aspects must be explored.
I plan to introduce a resolution proposing an interim study to address this issue. It should not be the role of state government to decide what local school districts must do. With more than 240 school districts and hundreds of school buildings in Nebraska, imposing a one-size-fits-all solution would be foolish. Rather, the focus of the interim study will be to explore what can be done at the state level to support the efforts and needs of the local school districts.
Prior to the interim study, several bills have been introduced which could help address this violence, to seek solutions and begin the discussions.
Sen. Justine Wayne of Omaha introduced LB990, which would prohibit a juvenile who had committed a violent crime and was adjudicated in juvenile court from possessing firearms until the age of 25, unless a judge deems the person rehabilitated or if the person joins the military. The bill is in committee and there are some issues. The bill would create a new felony offense for a minor, who after being adjudicated in the juvenile court, is found in possession of a gun. Opponents of the bill saw this as just stacking more felonies on top of a youth who would get pushed deeper into the judicial system.
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks introduced LB780 which would ban multi-burst trigger activators (bump-stocks) and firearm silencers. She has stated she would be willing to remove the ban on silencers. Her bill was brought in response to the mass shootings in Las Vegas; and since the Florida shooting, even the President has talked about banning bump-stocks. This bill is still in committee.
Youth often use electronic or social media to signal their actions. Sen. Rob Clements introduced a measure that would create an offense to reflect modern technology. Under current law, a person commits the offense of intimidation by a telephone call if he or she calls someone with the intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend. The offense is a class 3 misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of three months in prison, a $500 fine or both. LB773 would update statutes to reflect modern technology and include intimidation by electronic message, such as test message or email.