Neb. lawmaker introduces firearm legislation

By Alissa Skelton - Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) _ Nebraska lawmakers will debate new gun restrictions for juveniles this year in the wake of a recent mass killing at a Connecticut elementary school and with memories still fresh of shootings at an Omaha department store and school.

Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford introduced two bills this week designed to keep guns and ammunition away from unsupervised juveniles.

One bill introduced Friday addresses the transfer of ammunition to juveniles. Ashford said Nebraska currently doesn’t have any laws restricting minors from purchasing ammunition.

A second measure would hold adults liable for leaving unsecured firearms in locations accessible to a minor or a mentally incompetent person who cannot legally possess a gun.

“The main idea is to raise the issue of personal responsibility, especially as it relates to children who don’t have the legal right to possess a firearm,’’ he said.

Ashford introduced the bills in the wake of last year’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which a 20-year-old man killed 20 students and six faculty members before killing himself.

The Omaha area also has experience with mass shootings. In 2007, nine people were killed and four wounded at a Von Maur department store in an Omaha shopping mall. And in 2011, a suspended 17-year-old student shot and killed an assistant principal and wounded the principal at Millard South High School in Omaha before fleeing the school and killing himself.

Ashford said he hopes the federal government will tackle legislation dealing with the sale of large ammunition magazines and unregulated gun shows, which are a “big problem in Nebraska.’’ He said he’d like to see federal laws that require gun shows to do background checks on gun buyers.

He expressed hope that an effort led by Vice President Joe Biden would prompt Congress to take action.

“If someone wants to obtain large rounds of ammunition they could easily do it with the Internet,’’ he said. “Those kinds of bans or restrictions need federal restrictions. We will wait and see what Biden comes up with.’’

Ashford said his main focus this session will be on pioneering juvenile and mental health reform.

“There are thing we can do in Nebraska that can better check for mental illness,’’ Ashford said. “To say gun control alone will stop the shootings is naive.’’

Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen, an outspoken gun-rights advocate in the Legislature, said he opposes Ashford’s legislation. Christensen said he may introduce firearm legislation that would allow teachers and administrators to keep guns secured in their vehicles on school property. In 2011, he introduced a bill that would have allowed teachers, administrators and security to carry concealed guns at school.

“If you could prove to me that gun restrictions take guns away from criminals, then I could support it,’’ he said. “But criminals are still going to have them no matter what you regulate.’’

Attorney General Jon Bruning said Thursday he doesn’t think gun control is the answer to preventing mass shootings.

“To me it is not the gun that is the problem. The problem is the mentally ill individual that wields the gun,’’ Bruning said. “We are not going to stop mentally ill people from doing crazy things by building more walls.’’

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