Gun owners push to reject registration changes
October 19th, 2011
Omaha, NE – Some gun owners are saying “no” to proposed changes to Omaha’s gun registration rules, and the city of Omaha says “yes” to a new health care program.
The city’s proposal to revise Omaha’s gun registration rules had gun owners from inside and outside city limits showing up in city hall—all hoping to convince the city council to shoot down what some say is “redundant” to current state and federal law.
“It duplicates the investigating that the state does with their purchase permit,” said Omaha gun owner and fire arms dealer, Don Short, who testified at the hearing. “It duplicates what the federal government requires for filling out paperwork to purchase a firearm.”
Omaha’s current gun ownership ordinance declares that anyone purchasing a concealable weapon, within the city of Omaha, must register it for a fee. “Concealable” is defined as a gun less than 18 inches in length. City officials said a concealed weapon already registered by the state can substitute the city requirement.
Opponents say concealed weapons would already be registered through state and federal purchasing requirements, making the city ordinance an unneeded duplicate.
Omaha Police Chief Alex Hayes told the city council that no national firearm database currently exists, and a city database of registered firearms helps track stolen guns and trace firearms used during a crime.
But Short believes the city’s preemptive action leaves lawful gun owners persecuted. “It’s the criminals they have to go after,” Short said. “And right now, they’re punishing the innocent and the lawful owners of the guns.”
After a total of nine opponents testified, Assistant City Attorney Michelle Peters was called on by council member Jean Stothert to explain the city’s intentions.
“The intent was always to not to make the laws more restrictive or less restrictive, but to be in line with the state and federal laws,” explained Peters. “We looked a lot at the mental health requirements…we wanted to be consistent with state law with regard to how many years you go back to look at misdemeanors and so forth.”
Those revised requirements state that no one deemed mentally ill and dangerous or convicted of a violent crime within the last ten years will be allowed to carry a concealed weapon.
The revisions would also lift a ban that’s made the city a target of a lawsuit recently. Mexican national, Armando Gonzalez, and two pro-gun rights advocates—the Nebraska Firearm Owners Association and the Second Amendment Foundation sued the city in federal court last month, for denying gun ownership rights to legal immigrants. Opponents said the city was simply reacting to the suit.
But Peters said the intent is consistency.
“We wanted everything to be consistent, and we wanted it to be more user-friendly for the constituents that were coming here and applying,” Peters said. “We just basically needed an overhaul to update it to be in compliance with state law.”
Rod Moeller, owner of R.L. Moeller Sporting Arms in La Vista, said the city’s requirements are why his customers purchase outside of Omaha to avoid a quote “cumbersome registration process.”
Moeller said that’s why his business is outside Omaha. “Oh most definitely! In fact, I advertise that,” he said. “I get people from Omaha and I advertise to that fact, because people don’t want the hassle.”
After Tuesday’s hearing, Peters said the city is open to changes.
“We’ve tried to make it comprehensive,” she said. “And obviously, from the comments, there might be some things that we missed, and we certainly will be willing to make those amendments as necessary.”
The proposed revisions will be up for a third reading next week.
Also on the docket, in a 6-1 vote, the Omaha City Council approved an agreement between the city and Coventry Health Care of Nebraska, transitioning the city’s health insurance program beginning in January. The city could reportedly save about $1.5 million with the deal, and possibly more with one-year extensions. Council member Franklin Thompson was the only “no” vote.