Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks of Lincoln told the Legislature's Judiciary Committee on Thursday she has taken a lot of heat — mostly from people outside of Nebraska — because of a bill she introduced to ban accessories that make a gun fire more rapidly.
She also got more opposition than support during a hearing at the Capitol on the bill (LB780) to ban the manufacture, import, sale or possession of so-called bump stocks, or multiburst trigger activator accessories.
The National Rifle Association, people who participate in gun and rifle competitions, firearms owners associations and others opposed the bill.
At least two cities — Denver and Columbia, South Carolina — and the state of Massachusetts have banned bump stocks, which replace a rifle’s standard stock, and allow it to fire more rapidly, at nearly the rate of a machine gun. Several other states have assault weapons bans that likely prohibit bump stocks, depending on how the laws are interpreted.
Bump stocks have been linked to the Las Vegas massacre by Stephen Paddock that killed 59 people and injured hundreds more. Twelve of the accessories were reportedly found on firearms recovered from his hotel room, according to a special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' San Francisco field office.
Pansing Brooks' bill would also ban silencers, but she offered an amendment Thursday that would eliminate that ban.
She said she believed her constituents would support the ban on silencers, but she received many calls from people in other parts of the state who strongly opposed it.
And she received many emails and calls from outside the state lambasting her for attempting to make any kind of "common-sense change in our gun laws," she told the committee.
The proposed ban would not eliminate the problem of mass shootings, she said, but would give targets of a mass shooting a better chance to survive or escape unharmed.
Clifford Leffingwell, a retired Lincoln endodontist and a member of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, said he, too, was against gun violence. But no one knows for sure, he said, that a bump stock or technique was used in the Las Vegas massacre. The pictures seen on the internet amount to hearsay or circumstantial evidence, he said.
"I would ask that we step back and consider are we banning a device or accessory, a feel-good piece of legislature, which really accomplishes nothing?" he said.
Brian Gosch, lobbyist for the NRA, said the bill was too broad. The normal use of trigger activator devices would be to modify a gun for competition shooting, and the bill would restrict that normal, usual use. The devices also can be used by people with disabilities or physical impairments to assist with sporting and hunting activities, he said.
After the Las Vegas shooting, the NRA issued a statement that said, "The NRA believes that devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations."
Asked about that by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, Gosch said the statement called for a review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on whether the devices complied with federal law.
"We don't support bump stock bans. We support the ATF doing their job," he said.
That's the appropriate place for that, he said, not necessarily state legislatures.
Krist said the prerogative of the state Legislature is to review what's good within this state.
Patricia Harrold, with the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, said the organization believes legislation should serve an achievable purpose and a common good, and this bill would not do that.
"We are also concerned, as members, that the ban on one accessory opens the door to any other accessories that are used to facilitate the use of safe handling of firearms, especially for people with disabilities," Harrold said.