Massive Opposition Kills Nebraska Background Check Bill
AP Photo/Steven Senne

Hundreds of gun owners packed a legislative hearing at the state capitol in Lincoln on Friday, determined to speak out against a gun control measure that would impose a waiting period on gun sales, as well as require background checks to be performed on all firearms transfers at gun shows.

LB816 isn’t a gun control bill at all, according to the bill’s sponsor, but the vast majority of those who showed up for a hearing on the bill strongly disagree.

“I think the message is pretty clear that shall not be infringed is non-negotiable,” says bill opposer Ian Kimmen.

Senator John McCollister says his bill isn’t gun control but a suicide prevention bill.

“The number one thing we can do is reduce easy access to firearms,” says Nebraskans Against Violence demonstrator Emily Killham.

The current version of the bill requires anybody buying a handgun to wait at least 48 hours, and up to five days when getting a permit from the sheriff’s office.

“This short delay would give a person, intent on harm to himself or others, a window of time to reflect on the impulse to purchase a handgun and hopefully change their mind,” says McCollister.

The bill also calls for the cost of the permits to double from $5 to $10. Gun store owner David Pringle, who organized many of the protesters, said the sheriff purchase permits are ineffective and he does additional background checks already.

Pringle says, “If you think adding $10 is going to make this thing work, you’re crazy. It already doesn’t work. You should get rid of the other pistol purchase permit.”

The Omaha World-Herald reports that about 400 gun owners were at the state capitol on Friday, compared to less than a dozen gun control activists. In addition to LB816, the Second Amendment supporters were also there to object to a red flag proposal introduced in the unicameral legislature, and the paper says their activism and engagement paid off.

What was clear after Friday’s public hearings is that nothing will be done this year on gun control legislation. In the end, none of the three bills was prioritized by Friday’s deadline, meaning they won’t advance this year.

Brett Hendrix, a 28-year-old former Marine from Omaha, came to the hearings — and later testified — holding a black AR-15 rifle, and wearing a camouflage helmet and flak jacket.

“I’m here because no rights in the Second Amendment need to be abridged,” Hendrix said.

But gun control advocates said something needs to be done to keep guns away from people contemplating suicide or harm to others.

“I don’t want Nebraska to be a state that doesn’t do anything, regardless of how many people are against it,” said Shirley Niemeyer of Ashland.

Not passing gun control isn’t the same as doing nothing, even though that’s exactly what gun control advocates want the voting public to believe. Unfortunately, the real issue in the state is the lack of funding for mental health services, as the Associated Press reported back in 2017.

While the state has saved money by closing regional centers, local programs haven’t received enough funding, said Sen. Paul Schumacher. That’s led to a “real deficiency” in mental health services, particularly in rural communities, Schumacher said.

Those in need of mental health services can be stuck on waiting lists for months before being able to find treatment, according to said Deputy Platte County Attorney Elizabeth Lay.

“There’s not enough resources for the number of people who need them,” Lay said. “The wait times are indicative of that.”

There isn’t money in the budget to fund the programs, said Sen. John Stinner. The state is projected to have a $195 million revenue shortfall for the 2017-19 budget.

“When you don’t have money, it’s hard to add to a program,” he said. “There’s a lot of areas we need to take a look at when revenue comes back.”

The lack of resources means many mentally ill individuals end up in prisons or at the state-run Lincoln Regional Center instead of receiving the treatment they need, Schumacher said.

“That’s the place where you park people when you have nowhere else to park them,” he said.

No gun control law is going to fix that problem, but unfortunately instead of tackling that real issue, some lawmakers decided to try to “do something” by going after legal gun owners instead. Thanks to the efforts of the state’s gun owners, it looks like those bills are going nowhere. Now lawmakers need to address the real issue instead of scapegoating the Second Amendment.