Nebraskans have long held our rights close to our hearts - especially our Second Amendment right to bear arms. The Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to keep and bear arms; however, for too long this right has been denied to some Americans simply because of where they live.
Law-abiding citizens who live in Chicago and Washington, D.C., have just as much right to protect themselves and their families as do Nebraskans, yet these two cities have such restrictive gun access laws it is tantamount to violating the Second Amendment.
Residents across this country should be able to exercise their constitutional rights to protect themselves and their families.
Since joining Congress, I have supported numerous measures to protect gun ownership rights, including helping to pass legislation requiring Washington, D.C., to enact gun laws in compliance with the District of Columbia v. Heller decision. This U.S. Supreme Court case struck down the city's ban on handgun possession, as well as the city's ban on keeping in private residences loaded, operable firearms for self-defense.
Since that case was decided, several more were filed - including McDonald v. City of Chicago.
Late last year, I signed an amicus curiea - a "friend of the court" brief - to preserve Americans' right to bear arms and uphold the Second Amendment as it applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment. The amicus brief was signed by more than 300 Members of Congress from both parties and chambers of Congress. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on March 2, and a ruling is expected in the next few weeks.
Should the Court rule the Second Amendment does not apply to the states and their localities, it would not only jeopardize our individual right to keep and bear arms but also be contrary to the legislative history of the Fourteenth Amendment.
I also am a cosponsor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Reform and Firearms Modernization Act (H.R. 2296). All too often, the ATF punishes gun licensees for trivial infractions, such as the improper use of an abbreviation or filing records in the wrong order. This legislation is a bipartisan effort to rollback unnecessary restrictions and correct errors in federal policy. It would authorize fines or license suspensions for less serious violations, while allowing license revocation for more severe ones, such as blocking investigations or participating in criminal behavior.
It's important to note while I am proud to support measures protecting our rights, there are some proposals which seek to restrict them. For example, H.R. 2159 would grant sole authority to the U.S. Attorney General to deny the transfer or sale of firearms and explosives to anyone classified as a terrorist, suspected terrorist, or any individual who may be connected with related terrorist activities. At first glance, this measure seems commonsense. However, if this were to become law, the Attorney General would have sole discretion in determining who should be denied access to firearms.
While it is important for law enforcement, military, and intelligence authorities to take lawful steps necessary to thwart future terrorist attacks, it must not come at the expense of law-abiding citizens and their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms.
As a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus as well as a Life Member of the National Rifle Association, I am committed to supporting legislation which protects the constitutional rights of all law-abiding, gun-owning Americans.