A proposal to prevent enforcement of stricter federal gun laws in Nebraska drew support and criticism in a public hearing Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Legislature gave first-round approval to a study aimed at modernizing the state’s tax system.
The gun proposal is by Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen. It would say that any federal law that attempts to ban ownership of semi-automatic firearms beyond those already restricted in Nebraska, or requires registration beyond what’s required in Nebraska would be unenforceable in the state. Janssen said he was trying to protect the constitutional rights of citizens against overreach by the federal government. He was challenged by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who said under the U.S. Constitution, federal law takes precedence. "Do you believe that the federal laws and the U.S. Constitution are the supreme law of the land in America?" Chambers asked. "They are supreme but they can be challenged," Janssen replied.
Amanda Cole, a supporter of the bill, picked up on the theme of federal overreach. "With all the current federal laws that we’re facing as American citizens right now, I am very concerned about the future of America. Our federal government is overstepping its boundaries at a dangerous rate to us. This attack on our Second Amendment is not the first. But it is blatantly obvious that it hits home on a personal basis," Cole said.
Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford told Cole he didn’t see the threat the same way. "I don’t see this waterfall of laws being passed. In fact, what I see, at least in my city, and you may not see it where you are, I see a rash of illegal firearms coming into our city and young people are getting ahold of them and they’re shooting each other," he said.
"It’s because people are scared right now," Cole said.
Nick Sauma, a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, opposed the bill. Sauma noted that some supporters had compared the proposed Nebraska law to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana, in conflict with federal law. "However, those issues are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution as being state or federal powers, whereas the Second Amendment is in the Bill of Rights, and is therefore a federal power and up to Congress and the courts to decide," Sauma said.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.
Meanwhile, the Legislature gave first round approval to a bill creating a Tax Modernization Committee to study the tax system and recommend changes. Sen. Galen Hadley of Kearney, as chairman of the Revenue Committee, would head the new committee.
Hadley made it clear what he thinks the study will not do. "This tax study’s goal is not to lower taxes in Nebraska. If you want to lower taxes in Nebraska, you’ve got to start with expenditures," Hadley said.
"You need to go to the Legislature and say ‘Legislature, you’re spending too much money.’ You need to go to your school district and say ‘You’re spending too much money.’ You need to go to the cities and say ‘You’re spending too much money.’ The counties – ‘You’re spending too much money.’ That’s how you get taxes down. What we’re trying to do is to see that it’s equitable. That it’s equitable to the poorest person and the richest person."
The bill advanced on a vote of 47-1, with only Sen. Chambers opposed.