(AP) _

Assaulting a firefighter, paramedic or social worker could carry a stiffer penalty in Nebraska under a bill presented to a legislative panel.

Senator Steve Lathrop of Omaha said Thursday that his proposal would impose the same potential penalties as the crime of assault on a police officer. Lathrop says the bill seeks to protect professionals who are sometimes attacked by people they're trying to help.

The bill was partly inspired by a woman who pulled a gun on a firefighter-paramedic in Omaha while riding in the back of an ambulance. Justine Dobois was sentenced to 11 years in prison.

Senator Ernie Chambers of Omaha criticized the bill, saying lawmakers shouldn't create harsher punishments for attacking people in specific professions.