Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Bill seeks to protect Second Amendment

State and local officials in Nebraska would be limited in their ability to enforce federal firearm regulations under a bill considered Feb. 2 by the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Sen. Steve Halloran
Sen. Steve Halloran

LB194, introduced by Sen. Steve Halloran of Hastings, would prohibit any state or political subdivision employee from enforcing any federal law regulating a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition unless the measure also is codified in state law.

An individual in violation of the bill’s provisions would be subject to a fine of up to $3,000 for a first offense and a Class I misdemeanor for second or subsequent offenses. A political subdivision that adopts an ordinance in violation of the bill would be ineligible to receive state funds for one fiscal year.

Halloran said the bill would not prevent Nebraska state troopers from issuing concealed carry permits or implementing the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, but it would prevent the federal government from “commandeering” Nebraska officials to enforce federal gun laws.

“The people of Nebraska depend on us to uphold and protect their constitutional rights,” Halloran said, “Which is why LB194 is necessary.”

Dave Kendle testified in support of the bill, which he said “clearly represents” the will of the state’s people. Ninety-one of Nebraska’s 93 counties adopted resolutions declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” in 2021, he said, and former Gov. Pete Ricketts declared Nebraska a “Second Amendment sanctuary state” that same year.

“This bill codifies the spirit of these efforts into a single state law,” Kendle said.

Matt Franken, representing the Lincoln Police Union, spoke in opposition to the bill. The measure would have unintended consequences that could negatively impact community safety, he said, particularly in terms of the city’s ability to address gun violence.

Trafficking, drugs and gang violence often involve guns, Franken said, and the assistance of federal prosecutors in addressing those crimes frees up local prosecutors to focus on an existing backlog of other cases from the pandemic.

Speaking on behalf of the Omaha Police Department, Michael Todd Kozelichki also testified in opposition. He said the bill could affect the department’s eligibility to receive federal grant funding and its ability to partner with federal task forces. In addition, he said, many investigations develop into situations that involve federal firearms violations.

“Essentially, LB194 handcuffs the cooperation between local law enforcement and federal law enforcement more than it handcuffs the criminals who are out there committing violent crimes,” Kozelichki said.

Sheri St. Clair of the League of Women Voters of Nebraska testified in opposition, saying the bill would put public employees in a situation where they could be subject to criminal penalties for following federal law. LB194 also likely would open the state up to legal challenges, she said.

“Fruitless and expensive court battles don’t serve the needs of our communities,” St. Clair said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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