Neb. groups oppose bill to keep guns from youths


Associated Press

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 24 at 12:06 PM

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A National Rifle Association lobbyist and gun owners on Wednesday came out in opposition to a Nebraska bill designed to keep firearms away from unsupervised juveniles.

Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford's proposal was met with criticism in a Legislature Judiciary Committee hearing at the Capitol. Members of the public were invited to share their opinions on two bills that would impose stricter state regulations on guns.

The most opposition was against a bill that would hold adults civilly liable for "unreasonable placement" of firearms or leaving guns accessible to unsupervised minors or mentally incompetent individuals. The other proposed measure would ban juveniles from being able to buy ammunition, but only one opponent addressed it.

Lobbyist Ron Jensen, speaking on behalf of the NRA, said the organization opposes the bill aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of unsupervised juveniles, especially the part about pinning civil liability on owners who leave their firearms accessible. NRA member Jeremy Cady of Lincoln added that the state would be better served by gun education programs.

John Wallace, a representative of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, said the bill should define what is considered proper storage of a firearm.

Jensen said the measure should at least ensure that a firearm owner won't be civilly liable if a person without authorization manages to get a firearm from a locked safe.

Ashford said, "Maybe the wording needs to be cleaned up."

The bill seeking to prevent juveniles from buying ammunition drew support from Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine. Under current law, juveniles in the state are already blocked from buying firearms, lawmakers said. The measure would simply add ammunition to the ban.

Sen. Ernie Chambers said he arrived at the hearing thinking the ammunition bill was a good idea, but now has concerns after hearing testimony from Lincoln attorney Jerry Soucie. The lawyer said the measure would make illegal possession of ammunition a felony and that the chances of someone being wrongfully accused of having ammunition would be too great.

"You pushed the right buttons to make me look at this bill in an entirely different way," Chambers said. "I do not think juveniles ought to have ammunition, or guns. But sometimes there's a bigger issues."

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