Gun Laws to be Reviewed

Here's a draft of the proposed new language when considering a gun crime: A facsimile firearm falls within the other than a firearm category and includes but is not limited to a replica gun, BB gun, pellet gun, paintball gun, toy gun, lighter gun or any other instrument that is fashioned to appear to be a functional firearm.

A non-functioning firearm would also be included in the defintion when considering Use of a Deadly Weapon to Commit a Felony and Possession of a Deadly Weapon during the Commission of a Felony.

Nebraska lawmakers are about to tackle a loophole in gun laws that gives an edge to the criminals. It’s a flaw that WOWT Six News first exposed last summer.

Here’s an example of what’s at issue. Jefferson Potter is facing prison time for leading police on a pursuit that ended in a deadly crash. As he was arrested, police discovered that he had a gun and since he’s a felon, that added 10 years to his sentence.

The victim’s mother, Ruth Siemens, said, “The sentence was stronger than we thought it would be. It was better than we hoped for."

Things would have been different if the gun had not been found.

That's currently the issue in the case pending against Larry Gaines. He won't face a gun crime even though several carjacking victims described him pointing a gun in their faces, terrorizing them. Investigators say Gaines ditched the gun. That means there will not be an extra eight years of prison time if convicted.

Then there are toy guns. Police say some of the toys look like the real thing.

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine says, “We want to make sure that if someone's intent is to pull out a toy gun or pellet gun or starter pistol to put a person in fear and get what they want, we ought to be able to charge in that manner."

Right now, Nebraska law defines a working firearm as something that propels a shot with gunpowder. So it's to the benefit of the criminal to ditch the gun. The proposed change would cover BB guns, toy guns and other instruments that appear to be a functional firearm.

Kleine said, "If someone's trying to threaten someone with any instrument that appears to be a gun, that should be enough. The person on the other side of the gun doesn't have to be shot before we can charge the use of a firearm."

Lawmakers will look into fine tuning the language so the intent of the weapon is taken into consideration.

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