Bill to eliminate concealed handgun permit requirement pulled from committee

A bill that would eliminate Nebraska’s permit requirement to carry a concealed handgun was placed on general file March 8 after a successful procedural motion.

Sen. Tom Brewer
Sen. Tom Brewer

LB773, introduced by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, would prohibit counties, cities and villages from regulating the ownership, possession and transportation of a concealed handgun. Under the bill, registration and training requirements for concealed handguns no longer would be required.

Individuals who currently are prohibited from possessing or carrying a gun still would be prohibited from doing so under the bill. Carrying a concealed handgun while under the influence of alcohol also would remain illegal. Concealed handguns would remain prohibited in schools, certain government premises and private businesses that have such rules in place.

Brewer filed a motion to place the bill on general file, even though the Judiciary Committee has not voted to advance it.

Calling LB773 the most important bill that he has introduced in his six years in the Legislature, Brewer said a motion to pull a bill from committee is warranted under “exceptional circumstances.”

“The bill in question should be a senator’s priority bill. It should address a statewide issue with broad public support and it should be deadlocked in the committee without the votes to kill it or advance it,” he said. “LB773 fits this criteria.”

Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen supported the motion. While lawmakers generally should respect the committee process, he said, there are times when a bill is stuck in committee but should be discussed on the floor.

“This is one of those issues … that rises to the level that the citizens want to see us discuss this, talk about this on the floor and have a vote — because it is a constitutional right we’re talking about,” Friesen said.

Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop, chairperson of the Judiciary Committee, opposed the motion. Lathrop said pulling bills onto the floor circumvents the committee process.

A bill like LB773 that contains controversial subject matter and cannot gain the consensus necessary to be voted out of committee likely does not have enough support to advance further in the legislative process even if pulled from that committee, he said.

“There is a reason these [bills] are deadlocked in committee and there is a reason we trust the committee process,” Lathrop said.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt also spoke in opposition to the motion. Committees are structured to include members with specific backgrounds, interests and experiences, she said, and lawmakers shouldn’t attempt to subvert their expertise by pulling bills from committee.

“We don’t have a lot of remaining days [in this session] and with many important challenges ahead of us … I think that having a controversial gun debate brought on by this pull motion could derail the other work that we must do for Nebraskans this year.”

Senators voted 30-12 to adopt the motion to advance LB773 to general file. A majority vote of the Legislature was required.

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