Gun debate after shooting at Omaha Target falls along familiar lines

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) — While only the gunman was killed during Tuesday’s shooting at a target in western Omaha, some say the whole thing could have been prevented.

Proponents of bills like LB 77, the permit-free concealed carry bill, say the shooting proves the need for more people to carry guns.

Opponents say more guns will only lead to more shootings and that police are already dealing with the threat.

They say it’s not illegal to be armed and to enter a public place with a gun, so shootings like Tuesday’s will become even more common as the scope of training and background checks is reduced.

Brittany Cooper, state coordinator at Nebraskans for Peace, said the majority of people don’t support the law or it would have been passed beforehand.

“Each year thousands of permits are not issued due to background checks, so it is very important that we proceed with this and that these processes are not bypassed,” she said.

In 2014, Target urged people not to bring guns into stores, even if local laws allowed it.

Gun rights advocates said when these shootings happen, response time matters.

It took only six minutes for the police to get to Target.

But Patricia Harrold, president of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, said law-abiding citizens with guns could have stopped the shooter even faster.

“It could have been any of us who choose the self-defense lifestyle to have a tool at hand,” she said. “Whether it’s a law enforcement officer or a citizen, you have to have someone with a gun to stop someone with a gun.”

Opponents disagree, saying it’s very rare for a civilian to take action against a shooter.

Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, said police recognized the danger Tuesday and were able to handle the situation without the help of citizens.

“They saw someone walking around with an assault weapon and killed him. That’s how dangerous they found that person,” she said. “So the idea that we would let more people come into the public square with more guns, fewer background checks and less training is completely unthinkable.”

Gun rights advocates like Harrold say the real problem is mental health and that there needs to be more support systems to prevent shootings.

“We have a mental health panel and a mental health process that is broken,” Harrold said. “It’s underfunded, it’s not efficient, it’s not resourced. We have really, really, really good people trying to work within the system, but if the average person knew how bad this system is, we wouldn’t be shocked or surprised that what happened at Target happened. “

Both sides said there were several important bills to look out for as the legislature progressed, including LB 314 and LB 5.

Introduced by Senator John Fredrickson of Omaha, LB 314 would provide gun owners with suicide education and prevention training.

LB 5, introduced by Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue, would provide worker’s compensation for those who experienced violence, such as a shooting, at their workplace.

The Nebraska gun debate is expected to continue as all of these bills move forward.

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