The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, January 22, 1999, Page 3, Image 3

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    Concealed-weapons bill makes comeback
Citizens could carry handguns if they pass background check, complete safety class
By Brian Carlson
Staff writer
After stalling in the last legislative
session, a bill allowing law-abiding
citizens to carry concealed weapons
is likely to pass in 1999, lawmakers
LB476, sponsored this year by
Sen. Ray Janssen of Nickerson,
would allow citizens to obtain permits
for carrying concealed weapons if
they passed background checks of
criminal and mental health records
and completed gun safety training.
A similar bill, introduced by Sen.
Stan Schellpeper of Stanton in 1997,
fell short of passage last year. As the
1998 Legislature drew to a close, the
bill was dropped when it became
clear Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha
would use all the allotted debate time
to filibuster and block the bill.
“I think it would have passed last
year, but we ran out of time,” Janssen
Lynne McNally, a legislative aide
to Janssen, said proponents’ priority
this year is to get the bill onto the floor
early to avoid last year’s problems.
“Getting to it sooner is the key,”
she said. “Support is heavy for the
bill, and we definitely have the 25
votes to pass it.”
As of Thursday, eight senators had
signed on to the bill. The Judiciary
Committee had not yet scheduled a
hearing on LB476.
Nebraska is one of seven states
that has not passed some form of leg
islation allowing concealed weapons
Janssen said he supported the bill
because it would allow the state to
better regulate handguns. It would
also allow responsible citizens to
defend themselves against attack, he
For example, he said people who
traveled to and from work through
dangerous, poorly lit areas should
have a means of defending them
The bill provides sufficient safe
guards to ensure that dangerous citi
zens do not obtain concealed
weapons permits, Janssen said.
“You don’t just go get a concealed
weapon permit,” he said. “There are a
lot of hoops you have to jump through
before you can even come close to
getting one.”
Opponents such as Sen. Chris
Beutler of Lincoln said they believed
the bill would create more problems
than it solved.
Although some studies, most
notably one by John Lott of the
University of Chicago Law School,
have indicated crime has dropped in
areas allowing concealed weapons
permits, Beutler called this evidence
Even if a concealed-weapons law
caused a small drop in crime rates, he
said, other factors could negate its
Beutler said he was concerned
passage of the bill could lead to a pro
liferation of handguns, increasing the
possibility of violent crime. He also
said the permit requirements might
not be foolproof.
Most importantly, Beutler said, a
concealed-weapons law could lead to
an increase in the number of “crimes
of passion.” Domestic disputes or
“road rage” could escalate into vio
lent confrontations that could be
avoided if a gun were unavailable, he
“When good people lose control -
and good people do lose control occa
sionally - if a gun is available, it
might be available at just the wrong
instant in time,” he said.
Although Beutler said he had not
counted votes to see if it would be
possible to block the bill, he was
resigned to its likelihood of passage.
“Barring a change in attitudes, I
believe the bill will be passed in some
form this year,” he said.
Although some law enforcement
officials have expressed concern
about LB476, Janssen and McNally
said the bill was restrictive enough to
ensure concealed handguns do not get
out of control and threaten law
enforcement officers’ lives.
“We’re always concerned about
keeping law enforcement safe,”
McNally said. But concerns among
some law enforcement officials “may
be about something that won’t come
to fruition,” she said.
Confident of the bill’s passage,
McNally said supporters would try to
push the bill quickly.
“We’ve got all our ducks in a row,
and we hope to have more success this
year than last year.”
Body shop catches fire;
causes $7,000 damage
• 9 a.m. - 1 a.m.
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By Josh Funk
Senior staff writer
Quick response helped limit the
damage caused in a downtown body
shop fire Thursday.
The second-floor body shop in
Duteau Chevrolet quickly filled with
thick black smoke after a car started
burning, acting Deputy Chief Dale
Wojtasek said.
Firefighters responded quickly to
the fire, on 18th and O streets, which
was only a few blocks from the fir^
“There was a large area of orange
flame on the second floor when we
arrived,” Wojtasek said. “But we
attacked it quickly and knocked the
flames down.”
The fire, which was called in at
12:07 p.m., was confined to the car
and its immediate surrounding area,
causing $7,000 worth of damage.
Smoke rolled out of the building for
more than half an hour.
Carol Wooge, who worjcs at the
Family Thrift Store across the street
from the fire, was on her lunch break
when the fire started.
“I heard an explosion from
around the comer, and when I came
out I saw the black smoke,” Wooge
said. “The firefighters arrived in no
Wojtasek said the explosion
Wooge thought she heard was proba
bly firefighters breaking out win
dows on the second floor for ventila
When the fire started, many of the
Duteau employees were having lunch
on the opposite side of the second
floor, Wojtasek said.
They heard some strange noises,
started to smell smoke, and called
911 right away.
It took firefighters half an hour to
control the fire after knocking down
the initial flames, though much of
that time was spent clearing smoke
from the building and looking for
other fires.
Traffic was disrupted for 30 min
utes on O and P streets to accommo
date fire hoses; but there was no
structural damage, and business
resumed after the smoke cleared.
The fire inspector investigating
the cause of the fire could not be
reached Thursday.
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