I find it interesting and somewhat amusing that some around the Capitol have said that the bill, at least up until this point, that has caused the least amount of fireworks is the only bill that has dealt with fireworks, the flying lantern bill. We talked about that bill last week and I'm not going to repeat that discussion. What I want to share this week is some of my thoughts about a bill that was debated this past week and did cause a lot of fireworks. Contact to my office on both sides of the issue was heavy and even some totally inaccurate robocalls that were directed to many of you in District 23 came to my attention.
LB289 was offered in an effort to standardize gun laws across the state. The intent was that no city would be able to pass firearms laws more restrictive than those passed by the state. On its face, the purpose of LB289 is understandable. No one would want to be carrying a firearm legally in one municipality, and simply by going to another town that might have different gun laws, be subject to arrest. It was reasoned that few, if any, would be aware of all ordinances across Nebraska. Supporters said why not have standardized laws that are applicable to all. This would result in no unintended consequences.
Opponents argued this was in infringement on local control and on a person's Second Amendment right to bear arms. Representatives of Omaha and Lincoln were opposed saying this bill would make it harder in their cities to address gun and gang violence. Many other towns weighed in on the issue and felt this was only the beginning of the state taking away more and more of the rights they should be able to control. Who knows the area better than we do was the argument presented.
These are all good and understandable arguments. A strong majority of you called or emailed and favored passage of LB289. You pointed out the violence we hear about in our state every day. Many said gun laws aren't working now, so let's look at a different approach. Larger cities tried to come up with a compromise amendment, but could find very little common ground on the issue. An amendment was offered to coincide with a federal law that protects gun owners who travel between states, but this too was rejected.
We have a procedure in the Legislature that provides for a cloture vote if it has been determined that there has been “full and fair debate” on an issue. Generally, this amounts to six hours of debate. When a cloture vote is asked for it must come from the introducer and debate stops immediately. To pass requires 33 votes. If successful, then we vote on the bill. LB289 received 32 votes, or one shy of the needed amount. When this happens the bill is pulled back and the speaker of the Legislature has the option of when to resume debate, if at all. I must say that during a short session that will be filled with many important issues to come, it is highly unlikely we will be talking about this bill again this year.
During the nearly three full days of debate on this bill I know I was the target of at least two robocalls. I had made no promise of a vote either way on LB289 to anyone. The calls described me as voting one way or another (I voted for cloture to end debate). They said I was following the lead of other senators and, in general, were full of inaccurate and false statements. Others of you were urged to call my office and tell me to vote a certain way. This is a normal tactic on any number of bills we consider each year. I would urge those of you who receive these types of calls, however, to consider the source, be suspicious and, if you don't know, ask what the nature of the call is about. We will be glad to answer questions in our office and enjoy hearing from you on any issue.