Statewide Preemption of Firearms Laws is moving! We have some good news and some remains to be seen news. Let’s review what is going on with LB68, our Preemption bill.
First off, Senator Hilgers designated LB68 his priority bill for this session. That is huge and it really helps move the bill along. Next, the committee advanced the bill to General File. That means it has moved out of committee and is ready to be scheduled for debate on the floor. Additionally, the committee advanced anamendment to bill. This is the part many folks don’t care for.
To understand what is going on with the amendment, let’s review a couple of realities. First, the bill will need to get 33 votes to overcome a filibuster. That is a given. Senator Chambers will certainly filibuster the bill this year as he did last year. Next, we need to get a few more votes to overcome the filibuster. We also know that several Omaha area senators, and a couple around Lincoln, have not supported Preemption because the Omaha Police Union was against it. If we could eliminate the Police Union objections we are likely to pick up the support of several senators.
Senator Hilgers had been meeting with representatives from the Omaha Police Officers Association (OPOA) for weeks in hopes of finding some middle ground. He understands that firearm registration is not negotiable for us. He also understands that major changes to the spirit of the bill would not be tolerated by the NFOA. What they finally negotiated might appear to be worse than it really is. So what is in the amendment?
Preemption is about removing all municipalities authority to regulate ownership and possession of firearms. The bill does exactly that, even with the amendment. What the amendment does is take a couple of the items from Omaha city statute and retains them by adding to state law. That doesn’t sound good does it? Not on the surface it sure doesn’t. But there are a couple of positive ways to look at this. First, there is nothing in the amendment we give up that we currently have. If amended, the bill would result in about 90 per cent of what we were asking for, and no loss of anything we currently have. The bigger win here is that the remaining restrictions are now part of state law. State law will be easier to change down the road than a city statute. And no new city ordinances may ever be passed. They are all gone. Whatever concessions given become part of state law. Those concessions only apply to a city of Omaha. Even though in state law, they only apply to Omaha not the entire state.
Specific pieces that were important to OPOA are things they believe are critical tools to combat gang violence. We want them to have the tools to do their job but disagree that all citizens should have to have their rights restricted to achieve that goal. Senator Hilgers was careful to insure that the few concessions made to OPOA were worded verbatim from current statutes.
A couple of items don’t make a lot of sense when you read the amended language, so let’s step through the actual changes.
– Omaha handgun registration
– Lincoln back door registration
– Omaha and Lincoln prohibitions of ownership from many listed misdemeanors.
– language for purchase permit. Seemingly insignificant change.
– transportation of long guns must be cased and unloaded – Omaha only
– For stolen firearms, a valid purchase certficate is an affirmative defense. Means that if you bought a handgun without a valid purchase certificate (which is illegal) and it is determined you purchased a stolen handgun, it would imply knowledge it was stolen.
In the end, it appears that without gaining support of OPOA and the senators they can swing our way the bill is likely to die during a filibuster like it did last year. To lose 10% of what we originally requested seems small compared to not gaining anything. This would be a victory for 92 of 93 counties in Nebraska.
I don’t like compromise when it comes to our rights. I also know that gains are often incremental. Is it really a compromise if you don’t give up something you currently have and still gain 90% of what you were going after? Join the discussion on the NFOA members forum and let us know what you think.