Omaha mayor signs bump stock ban, joining city curb on gun kits

Opponents pledge legal action in defense of Nebraska concealed carry law

By: - November 19, 2023 6:00 am

City ordinances respodning to a new Nebraska law allowing concealed carry without a permit or training could spur legal challenges. (Getty Images)

OMAHA — Omaha’s mayor signed the last of two new gun-related ordinances and resolutions aimed at carving out some local tools against gun violence after the Nebraska Legislature cracked down on cities with stricter local gun ordinances than state law.

The newest ordinance bans “bump stocks” or trigger activators. The Omaha City Council passed it 6-1 on Tuesday, with Don Rowe opposed. Mayor Jean Stothert signed it Thursday. The council banned gun-building kits and passed two other gun-related resolutions on Oct. 31.

Omaha City Council members Pete Festersen (left) and Aimee Melton (right), listen to testimony on several two city gun-related ordinances and two gun-related resolutions. (Aaron Sanderford/Nebraska Examiner)

The mayors of Omaha and Lincoln issued executive orders this year limiting the possession of concealed handguns on city property after the passage of State Sen. Tom Brewer’s Legislative Bill 77, which legalized concealed carry without a permit or mandatory training. 

Brewer’s law, which Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen signed this spring, took away the local charter authority that Omaha and Lincoln had to pass gun restrictions stronger than state law, which both cities have said helped them fight gang-related gun violence.

Omaha then banned gun kits and bump stocks. 

Festersen proposals

Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen proposed both ordinances and both resolutions, including one supporting Stothert’s executive order and another encouraging gun owners to seek training. He described all four proposals as “common sense measures.”

“We worked hard to build consensus and adopt … measures that will enhance public safety and protect our officers,” Festersen said. “In the absence of state or federal action it’s important we do what we can to address these issues”

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer testified in support of the changes this month. He emphasized the dangers of kit guns without serial numbers and guns with bump stocks that somebody could deploy during a mass shooting that could fire more rapidly than police. 

He discussed the dangers of gun parts being ordered online and being used in crimes without serial numbers to track them.

Lawsuits possible

Gun rights advocates, including the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, said they would sue both cities for going beyond LB 77. Brewer has said the cities are violating the spirit and letter of the law.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, is shown here in her official portrait. (City of Omaha/Mayor’s Office)

Jacob Huebert, President of Liberty Justice Center, which has said it is exploring the gun groups’ legal options, said it might also challenge the legality of the bump stock ban. 

“We are going to challenge local regulations,” he said. “We are aware that Omaha and Lincoln are still restricting rights protected by state law. We are prepared to stand up to protect Nebraskans’ right to keep and bear arms.” 

Omaha City Attorney Matt Kuhse has argued that the city has the authority under LB 77 to manage the property the city controls as it sees fit and that the city can legally regulate gun accessories like trigger activators or bump stocks.

Local reactions

Second Amendment supporters testified that they feel the rights of law-abiding gun owners are being trampled on at City Hall. They argue that criminals will carry guns wherever they like, and people who want to follow the law will be confused.

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, chair of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. Oct. 20, 2023. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Local gun groups less stridently opposed the bump stock ban, saying that people using the gun accessory often fire less accurately than people trained to use a firearm. They argued none of the changes would make a meaningful difference.

Omaha advocates for additional gun control testified that any movement toward restricting firearms in the city would protect more people than a state law they described as reckless and tailored more for rural and suburban areas than a city.

Former President Donald Trump tried to outlaw bump stocks administratively after a mass shooting in Las Vegas. That effort, continued by President Joe Biden, faced lawsuits soon after and remains caught up in the federal courts.

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Aaron Sanderford
Aaron Sanderford

Political reporter Aaron Sanderford has tackled various news roles in his 20-plus year career. He has reported on politics, crime, courts, government and business for the Omaha World-Herald and Lincoln Journal-Star. He also worked as an assignment editor and editorial writer. He was an investigative reporter at KMTV.

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