Nebraska Gun Bills Stall But May Surface Next Year

A series of gun measures introduced in the Nebraska Legislature are likely to stay in committee for the rest of the year, lawmakers said.

Nearly a dozen gun-related bills were proposed this year and reviewed by the Legislature's Judiciary Committee, but they haven't moved for debate in the full Legislature. Most haven't received a priority designation that would push them ahead of other measures.

The priority designation is crucial for bills this year, in the face of legislative debate that has slowed to a crawl because of repeated filibusters.

Lawmakers have reviewed bills intended to keep firearms and ammunition out of the hands of unsupervised juveniles. Other measures that would attempt to supersede federal gun laws drew large crowds to legislative hearings, but they faced tough questioning from committee members.

The committee chairman, Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, said one of his bills designed to keep guns away from unsupervised juveniles proved too controversial to advance. The bill would have allowed lawsuits against gun owners if they failed to reasonably store firearms that were later used by juveniles or people with mental illness. Gun lobbyists argued that the measure was too vague.

But Ashford said he might try to fold another proposal aimed at ammunition into a broader overhaul of Nebraska's juvenile justice system. The bill also would make it illegal to sell or give ammunition to minors, except for juveniles who are hunting or target shooting under a family member's supervision.

"I think it probably should go in the juvenile bill," Ashford said. "It fits right in there."

One committee member, Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, said committee members haven't yet acted on several of the gun bills introduced this year. Christensen said Friday that he expected to introduce a bill next year that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons.

Christensen introduced a similar bill in 2011, after a student fatally shot an Omaha-area high school administrator. The measure failed in a committee, and Christensen said late last year that he wouldn't raise the issue again unless he received an outpouring of support.

Christensen said Friday that he had changed his mind, but he will have to wait until next year to introduce a bill. Christensen said the idea was popular in his rural, conservative district, but he acknowledged it would face an uphill battle in the Judiciary Committee, which reviews most firearms legislation. The previous measure faced heavy opposition from Nebraska school groups.

Christensen said he wanted to scale the bill back to require additional training for teachers and administrators, beyond what is needed to obtain a basic concealed-carry permit.

"Having so much opposition a few years ago, when it should have went through, I just thought it was better off to wait," Christensen said.

Another bill to cut off public access to handgun permit application and registration data failed to advance to the full Legislature. The Judiciary Committee deadlocked on the bill, 4-4, one vote shy of the support it needed to advance.

The bill was introduced after a New York state newspaper published the names and addresses of all registered handgun owners in its reading area, shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut. A gunman fatally shot 20 children and six adult staff members in the massacre.

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