Here's an old article I found that furnishes a lot of background...
Council considers gun restrictions
DEENA WINTER / Lincoln Journal Star |
Posted: Monday, August 14, 2006
In Lincoln, it’s illegal to possess firearms if you’ve been convicted of certain crimes, such as stalking, resisting arrest and violating a protection order.
The City Council is considering tightening the law by adding additional crimes to that list, including assault, drug crimes, unlawful intrusion, domestic assault and public indecency. The ban would apply to people who have been convicted within the past 10 years.
Last month, the City Council rejected Mayor Coleen Seng’s proposal to ban concealed weapons in Lincoln. Instead, the council is looking at limiting who can possess guns within the city limits.
So when the state begins allowing people to get concealed weapons permits in January, people convicted of these crimes would not be able to legally possess the guns in Lincoln.
Lincoln Police Chief Tom Casady said the proposed ordinance is designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, and wouldn’t affect the ability of law-abiding citizens to get concealed weapons permits.
Casady said the earlier 2003 ordinance, which passed unanimously, has helped police take firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals, and the new ordinance will take them away from even more criminals.
A representative of the National Rifle Association, Jordan Austin, testified against the proposed ordinance, saying it would create a patchwork of gun laws.
Casady pointed out that the city has all kinds of ordinances that other cities don’t. For example, “you have to pick up your dog’s poop,” you can’t smoke indoors while working and “you can’t keep a rooster.”
“I don’t think this one is difficult to understand,” Casady said.
If a convicted criminal were found with a weapon, police would confiscate the weapon as evidence and the person would face a misdemeanor charge with a maximum penalty of $500 and up to six months in jail.
Casady said he’s concerned about 10 “serial flashers” who are continually window-peeping or masturbating in public, some of whom have guns.
To illustrate his point, he unfolded a long printout of the criminal history of “Peter,” who’s been arrested 106 times by police, including five times for indecent exposure, and has 11 pending charges. Then he unrolled another printout of “Robert,” who’s been arrested 121 times, 13 for indecent exposure.
“These are the kinds of people that I would like to keep guns from,” Casady said. “Peter has a gun. I would like to take it away from him, if we find him with one.”
Nothing would prevent people with those convictions on their record from buying a weapon, Casady said, but the minute they took possession of the gun they’d be violating Lincoln’s law.
Austin said it would be unreasonable to make people passing through Lincoln memorize its “obscure local ordinance.”
He said state law only allows the city to regulate the use, not possession, of firearms and asked the council to get the state attorney general’s opinion on the legality of the ordinance before proceeding.
City Attorney Dana Roper disagreed with the NRA’s interpretation of state statute and said Lincoln has the legal power, as a home rule city, to pass such an ordinance.
Councilman Jonathan Cook pressed Austin to answer whether he thought it was OK for people convicted of the proposed crimes to be allowed to possess firearms.
Austin said he doesn’t think any of the crimes should preclude people from possessing weapons. The offenses are misdemeanors, not felonies, he said, and people convicted of two DUIs, for example, aren’t necessarily a danger to society.
“Why this sudden urge to make the gun laws stricter than they are?” Austin asked.
Gary Muckel, a retired USDA scientist, called the proposed ordinance “nothing more than overreaction or sour grapes” by those who oppose the state conceal-carry legislation.
He also said 10 years was too long to ban people convicted of the crimes from having weapons.
He said the ordinance would unjustly punish a hypothetical 21-year-old who gets caught twice for driving under the influence of alcohol twice in one weekend.
But Casady said the ordinance was written to give a second chance to people who made mistakes like two DUIs.
“Maybe it’s a good idea not to have firearms until you’re 31,” he said of Muckel’s fictional character.
The council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance at its next meeting, on Monday.