Capitol weapons ban considered

A bill introduced in the Judiciary Committee March 16 would prohibit possession of deadly weapons in the Nebraska State Capitol and on surrounding Capitol grounds.

Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh
Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh

Current state law defines a deadly weapon as a firearm, knife, machine gun and brass or iron knuckles. LB749, introduced by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, would ban all deadly weapons in the Capitol and on Capitol grounds, with exceptions for law enforcement, military and security personnel and individuals participating in ceremonial activities as approved by the Nebraska Capitol Commission.

Provisions of the bill would not apply to an individual who stores a deadly weapon — for example, an unloaded firearm — in a secure encasement in a vehicle. Violations would result in a Class IV felony charge, which carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment and one year post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.

Cavanaugh brought an amendment to the hearing that would reduce the felony charge to a Class I misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Under current state law, Cavanaugh said, an individual cannot legally conceal carry in the Capitol, however it is legal to open carry. Removing this provision would increase security for law enforcement in the building, she said.

Ron Cunningham testified in favor of the bill. Gun rights are not unlimited, Cunningham said, and there is no legitimate reason to bring a gun into the Nebraska Capitol. An individual cannot hunt or use a gun for a recreational purpose inside the building, he said, and the only purpose for carrying a gun in the Capitol would be to injure someone.

Jayden Speed, representing the Nebraska Chapter of Students Demand Action, also testified in support. The U.S. has entered a time of increased polarization and political violence, he said, and the Capitol has become a “battlefield” in recent years where individuals carrying rifles for the purpose of intimidation have entered the hallways.

“Political violence and violent intimidation have no place in this building,” Speed said. “LB749 is the most common sense measure to protect those that serve, work and advocate [here].”

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

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