Hundreds pack State Capitol during hearing for gun bill

Published: Feb. 21, 2020 at 6:49 PM CST
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Hundreds of people packed the State Capitol for a hearing on a bill meant to reduce gun-related suicides on Friday. The vast majority of those people were gun-rights activists bused in from across the state.

Dozens of people filled the hearing room in the Capitol, so many that many were relegated to an over-flow room where people lined up.

All were discussing LB 816. The bill, introduced by Senator John McColister would make it mandatory that there's a two-day waiting period between applying for a handgun permit and getting the permit. The goal would be to give people considering suicide a chance to change their minds.

Both opponents and supporters said that suicide is a problem.

"Bills like this are domestic enemies and they need to be stopped," said Zack Ringer, LB 816 opponent. "We don't have a firearm problem in Nebraska, we have a people problem... a mental health problem."

"Suicide by firearm is the most successful way to commit suicide, when people are a danger to themselves, they shouldn't have guns," said Emily Killham, LB 816 supporter.

Out of hundreds of opponents who came, about 50 testified against the bill, five testified for it. Senators said hearings this packed only come around once every other year or so.

Many gun owners who spoke said any gun regulation is a violation of the second amendment. Supporters said its a human right for people to feel safe in their communities and as laws stand now, they don't.

There were so many people who wanted to testify that they had to cut the time each person had to a minute and a half instead of three minutes.

"We cannot base the number of people in this room and say we're outnumbered," said Melody Vaccaro, LB 816 supporter. "We know the majority of Americans and the majority of Nebraskans do not want dangerous people armed in their communities.

"There's some bills being put forth in the judiciary that I don't agree with and I'm very pro 2nd amendment and if we don't show up to let these folks know we don't agree with them well then they could go forward," said Charles Matson, LB 816 opponent.

Security said there were no outbursts, everyone was patient and listed to the other side and overall went better than expected.

Senator McCollister said he was expecting controversy, but had hoped the committee would pass the bill. It isn't a priority bill however so likely won't be debated on the floor this session.