National Politics

Lincoln panel declines to recommend gun security measures

A task force determined it will not recommend that the Lincoln City Council introduce a measure to force gun owners to lock up their guns at home.

The 17-member task force spent months collecting data after a group that advocates for an end to gun violence in the state pushed for an ordinance in Lincoln. The task force's report released Tuesday said firearm security is important but expressed concern over how such rules could be enforced.

Council members across party lines echoed enforcement concerns.

Councilwoman Tammy Ward, a Democrat, said Wednesday that she would support city-led education efforts, but that she has concerns about the city's ability to enforce a safe storage ordinance.

"I believe the majority of gun owners in Lincoln take gun safety seriously," Ward said. "However, I welcome this conversation to remind all gun owners about the grave responsibility they have to store and secure their firearms."

The report found that from 1995 to 2018, 18 of the 42 suicides of youths 18 and younger in the city involved firearms, the report said. Ten of those cases involved unsecured guns, and in the remaining two, the guns were secured but easily accessible. It also noted instances where police encountered teens with guns and the eight times students brought firearms to a Lincoln middle or high school between 2014 and 2018.

"Some in the group felt that the numbers were not high enough to justify actions where there was not a consensus," the task force said in the report.

A majority of the task force also recommended the city enforce its ordinance banning the storage of guns inside motor vehicles for longer than 24 hours. The report also recommended that Lancaster County hand out free gun locks to people applying for handgun purchase permits.

Council Chair Jane Raybould, a Democrat, told the Lincoln Journal Star on Wednesday that she'll support the legislation if data shows that locking up guns leads to fewer firearm thefts.

She already crafted a slogan: "Lock it up. Safe storage saves lives."

Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, said her group will continue to advocate for mandatory gun storage.

"We're going to keep pushing for that (ordinance)," Vaccaro said. "When you change the law, the behavior in the public changes, and what you get is fewer children interacting with guns when they shouldn't be."

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