Gun owners oppose storage restrictions


March 18th, 2011

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Lincoln, NE – A proposal aimed at requiring people to store guns so children could not get at them drew opposition from gun owners at a legislative hearing Thursday.

Lawmakers hope tighter gun storage laws will help prevent shooters like 17-year-old Robert Butler, Jr. from gaining access to weapons. Butler opened fire at Millard South Jan.5, prompting a lock down as anxious parents tried to reach their children (Photo by Anthony Davis)

Omaha Senator Brad Ashford introduced the bill. It would make it a crime to store a loaded firearm or a firearm and its ammunition within reach or easy access of a juvenile who then used it to hurt or kill someone. It would also require retailers to include gun locks or trigger locks with all firearm sales.

Ashford said he didn’t know if such a law would have prevented tragedies such as one in January, when a Millard South High School student took his father’s gun and shot two administrators, one of whom died, before killing himself. But he said he’s been introducing similar legislation since the 1980s.

One opponent asked if the father of the Millard South shooter, himself an Omaha police officer, hadn’t already been punished enough by what happened. Ashford said the proposal is intended to send a message to gun owners that if they were going to leave their homes and had reason to expect young people to be around, “for goodness sake lock that gun up.” And he said for that to enforce that message, some penalty is needed. One of the people who opposed the proposal was firearms instructor Chris Zeeb.

“Over and over we hear this argument when it comes to talking about laws, and it says, ‘If we can save just one life why don’t we pass this law,’ Zeeb said. “But I find it funny that that argument is never used when we’re talking about citizens defending themselves.”

Other opponents argued that education, not legislation, was the solution, and that responsible gun owners already make sure that children don’t have access to firearms. That wasn’t enough for Omaha Senator Brenda Council.

“We always hear ‘Responsible gun owner, responsible gun owner, responsible gun owner, responsible gun owner,’” she said, “yet we have no enumerated responsibilities, other than once you take the training and get the permit.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill. No one has named it a priority, meaning that it’s unlikely to be debated by the full Legislature this year, unless someone tries to amend it into another bill.

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