Gun bills trigger passionate testimony

By Christine Scalora, NewsNetNebraska

A series of bills concerning gun rights drew support from most testifiers and opposition from Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers last week at the Nebraska Legislature.

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony on four gun-related bills. The hearing lasted more than three hours.

LB293 was the first bill introduced. Sen. Bill Kintner of Papillion introduced the bill, which would make any handgun registration application or certificates confidential and not a public record.

Kintner noted how the Journal News in New York published a list of gun owners from public records. He said it was unnerving and at times dangerous that this information is available to all.

Kintner expressed safety concerns – particularly how criminals could have access to the information. Proponents of the bill also expressed privacy concerns.

Shawn Renner, lobbyist for Media of Nebraska, was one of two people to testify against the bill.

The information has been public for more than 20 years, and he’s unaware of media doing any blanket reporting in the state. News media here aren’t abusers or likely to be abusers of the public record information, Renner said.

Kintner said he’s concerned about those without journalistic reputations to uphold.

During debate on this bill, one audience member was asked to leave the hearing room after Chambers asked if there was a similar way to know if there are records on if a dog is licensed, adding that a pit-bull might be similar to a gun for personal safety. Many in the crowd disagreed.

Sen. Charlie Janssen of Fremont introduced a bill that would make any federal law, rule, regulation or order related to gun ownership or registration unenforceable within Nebraska if it went into effect after Jan. 1, 2013.

The bill, LB451, would make unenforceable federal action that restricts, bans, or attempts to restrict or ban ownership of semi-automatic firearm or magazine beyond what is already restricted. The bill would also make unenforceable requirements of registration of any firearm, magazine, or firearm accessory beyond what is already required.

Guns are a part of Nebraska heritage and culture, he said. Guns used illegally can cause tragedy, but these tragedies should not be used to abridge the rights of law-abiding Nebraskans, Janssen said.

Chambers said that Janssen, and other Nebraska legislators, take an oath, which includes a upholding the U.S. Constitution.

“There is no law in this country that tops federal law,” Chambers said.

In response, Janssen said: “They are supreme but they can be challenged.” People are challenging the federal government on issues like marijuana and marriage, he said.

Chambers also had questions on enforcing the law. He asked how to prohibit federal law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal legislation in the state.

Jerome Kramer, Lincoln County sheriff, said he would ticket the federal agents and then let the courts decide.

Kramer said that taking guns away from innocent people will not protect innocent people.

LB451 also drew opposition testimony, with two people testifying in opposition compared to 11 testifying in support of the bill. One opponent expressed concern about debating potential gun control legislation on a case-by-case basis.

“This will not become the law,” Chambers said. “I assure you.”

Sen. Dave Bloomfield of Hoskins introduced the Nebraska Firearms Freedom Act. The bill, LB602, would prevent any firearm, firearm accessories or ammunition manufactured and remaining in the state from being subject to federal regulation. These items haven’t traveled in interstate commerce, so Congress’ regulatory authority doesn’t apply, according to the bill.

Any public servant who enforces a federal regulation will be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Chambers said the legislation was “preposterous.”

“I would do everything I can to stop this from getting out of committee,” he said.

During discussion on the constitutionality of the bill, Bloomfield said the supremacy clause means that the federal government is subordinate to the constitution.

Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial introduced a bill, LB352, which would have the Nebraska State Patrol design a standardized sign for those who prohibit carrying a concealed handgun on their premises.

Christensen was part of the UNL Point Blank conversation on March 5. There were no opponents or neutral testifiers for his bill.

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