It's time for the Legislature to have a conversation about gun violence, and to look at the state's most violent juvenile offenders and their access to guns, Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne said Wednesday.
To that end, the Judiciary Committee accommodated Wayne, voting 7-0, with one member absent, to move his priority bill (LB990) out of committee and to the full Legislature.
The bill, accompanied by an amendment, would prohibit youth who have been adjudicated for felonies or misdemeanor domestic violence in juvenile court from possessing firearms until age 25. They could have guns earlier, but only after the court would consider any rehabilitation or military service.
With the amendment, the penalty for violation would change to a Class IV felony for the first offense and a Class IIIA felony for subsequent offenses.
A Class IV felony is punishable by a maximum two years in prison and 12 months post-release supervision or a $10,000 fine, or both. The minimum would be nine months post-release supervision if a prison sentence is imposed. Class IIIA is a maximum three years in prison and 18 months post-release supervision or a $10,000 fine, or both. The minimum would be nine months post-release supervision if a prison sentence is imposed.
The amendment would also require notice by the court of what consequences that an offender's particular crime would mean for the right to possess a gun.
Wayne said gun violations by young offenders are not only a problem in his Omaha district but across the state. He said a 17-year-old violent offender, for example, can possess an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle when he turns 19, regardless of whether the teenager is rehabilitated or not.
The gunman who killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school on Feb. 14 used an AR-15 rifle. He was 19.
In Douglas County, the case of a 17-year-old who shot a sheriff's deputy was transferred to juvenile court.
"At age 19, he can possess an AR-15, regardless of whether he completes probation successfully or not," Wayne said.
Those types of young people need to push a pause button to make sure their brains are fully developed and that they have been rehabilitated, he said. And then at age 25 they can possess a gun.