A proposed change to state law would make it more difficult for people undergoing a mental health crisis to recover guns seized by law enforcement.
Under a 2012 law proposed by State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilber, police are required to return seized guns to their owners as long as they were owned lawfully and were not used to commit a crime.
That includes people in crisis.
A handful of times since the law went into effect, deputies have had to return guns to people who had used them to threaten suicide, but then agreed to seek treatment, said Douglas County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Gentile, who let Karpisek know about the matter.
“In that case, do you really want to give them their firearm back?” Gentile asked.
So, this session, Karpisek introduced Legislative Bill 1027, which would add an exception for people who are in emergency protective custody or who are being committed — voluntarily or involuntarily — under the Nebraska Mental Health Commitment Act, which applies to people who are mentally ill and dangerous to themselves or others.
For those people, a district court judge would decide whether to return their guns after they completed their treatment plans.
Karpisek said he brought the original bill to ensure that people could get their guns back after an arrest.
“Now I'm just trying to make sure that if somebody has been (placed in emergency protective custody or committed) — that you don't end up hurting yourself or others,” he said. A hearing on the bill hasn't been scheduled.
The National Association for Gun Rights, meanwhile, has targeted Karpisek in a fundraising letter that raises the specter of government agents seizing weapons from people “for something as simple as a stress-induced visit to a therapist.”
The organization said Karpisek's bill would “make it easier for (President Barack) Obama to force his outrageous anti-gun agenda on Nebraska.” In a statement, Danielle Thompson of the organization said the law “would allow bureaucrats the right to strip law-abiding gun owners of their constitutional right under the guise of 'mental health.' ”
Nonsense, said Karpisek.
“They just talked you down off a ledge from shooting yourself, and 24 hours later, you want your gun back,” he said. “Does that make any sense?”