Firearms records protections, signage requirements discussed

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony March 20 on two bills that would change provisions for firearm registration and signage.

LB293, introduced by Papillion Sen. Bill Kintner, would prohibit public disclosure of a firearm applicant or permit holder’s registration, possession, sale, usage or denial information. Such information would be available upon request to all federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Kintner said a New York newspaper recently accessed local firearm owners’ public records and published their names and addresses on a map. Such information is sensitive and could provoke criminals who want to steal guns from people’s homes or to break into the homes of people they believe to be unarmed, he said.

Kintner said the bill would protect citizens by preventing similar information from being published in Nebraska.

Ron Jensen, representing the National Rifle Association, testified in support of the bill, saying a conflict exists between the people’s right to privacy and freedom of speech clauses in the U.S. Constitution. However, he said, court rulings consistently have upheld a person’s right to privacy over freedom of speech.

“The public does not have the right to know absolutely everything about a given individual,” Jensen said.

Lincoln resident John Morrow also supported the bill. If this type of information were to be published it could make gun owners more vulnerable to criminal attacks, he said. A major deterrent to criminals is the uncertainty of whether or not their potential victim has a gun, Morrow said.

Lincoln Journal Star Editor Dave Bundy testified in opposition to the bill, saying it was designed to withhold information that should be available to the public.

“Nebraska news media and citizens have not given lawmakers any reason to deprive people of this type of information,” he said.

Shawn Renner, representing Media of Nebraska Inc., also opposed the bill, saying it would prohibit the media from reporting on gun-related crimes.

“This information has been public for over 20 years now, and there have not been any circumstances in which the state’s media outlets have abused it,” he said.

Imperial Sen. Mark Christensen introduced a second bill related to the state’s concealed carry law. LB352 would require property owners who prohibit concealed handguns on their premises to post a sign designed by the State Patrol.

The sign would display a 2-inch red circle with a slash covering an image of a black handgun and contain the following text in black and red ink: NOTICE. Carrying a concealed handgun is PROHIBITED in or on this place or premises by the controllers of this property. The signs would be posted at each entrance to the premises and must be immediately replaced if they become obstructed, altered or illegible.

Christensen said the bill would help reduce confusion for gun and property owners by providing uniform gun signage and placement.

Roger Freeze, a concealed weapons permit holder, testified in support of the bill, saying that property owners are inconsistent with their gun signage. Gun owners who unknowingly enter a building that prohibits concealed weapons could be cited, arrested or could have their permits revoked, he said.

Osceola resident Ross Berck said a uniform sign would benefit both business and gun owners.

“I do not want to go into businesses that are trying to keep gun owners out,” he said. “I do not think it would be a huge burden on the business owner to help people who are trying to comply with the law.”

No one testified in opposition to LB352 and the committee took no immediate action on either bill.

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