- Associated Press - Monday, May 15, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - A bill that would have barred Nebraska towns and cities from enacting stricter limits on guns than state law allows was pulled from the legislative agenda on Monday after facing stiff opposition from the state’s two largest cities.

Its sponsor, Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, withdrew it to work more on legislation that he hopes will bring the city of Lincoln and the League of Nebraska Municipalities on board. He said he’s running out of time to fix his gun bill’s language this year because lawmakers expect to end the session early next week, but he intends to bring it back early next year.

Amanda Gailey, a founder of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that the measure will not succeed if it returns.

“The fact that it’s done for the year shows Lincoln and Omaha still have serious concerns,” Gailey said.

The bill advanced to the second of three required votes earlier this year despite opposition from Democrats and some Omaha Republicans, who say higher-crime urban areas have different needs than the rest of the state.

It would have included some exceptions for Omaha that the city’s police union said were necessary to prevent gang violence, and Lincoln officials said they need exemptions that will let them continue to keep guns out of Pinnacle Bank Arena and other public buildings during major events.

Lincoln will continue to oppose the measure next year unless it’s amended, said Molly Burton, a senior policy aide to Mayor Chris Beutler.

“We want to make sure that our community’s public safety is protected,” Burton said.

Forty-three other states already passed laws pre-empting local gun ordinances at the urging of groups including the National Rifle Association.

The NRA is optimistic that the bill will gain support before senators return in January, spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen said in an email.

“Nebraskans who choose to exercise their right to self-defense face a confusing patchwork of local gun laws that turn them into criminals by simply traveling from one place to another,” Mortensen said.

The bill’s end is the latest blow to gun rights advocates in Nebraska, who also failed to pass legislation this session that would exempt gun registration for public record, add responsibilities for business owners who want to prohibit firearms in their shops and let residents carry concealed weapons without permits.

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Follow Julia Shumway on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JMShumway

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