Elimination of concealed handgun permit requirement stalls

A bill that would allow Nebraskans to carry a concealed handgun without a permit stalled on select file after an unsuccessful cloture motion April 11.

Sen. Tom Brewer
Sen. Tom Brewer

Current state law requires that an individual pass a background check, submit a $100 permit fee and complete a safe firing and handling gun course to obtain a concealed carry permit.

LB773, introduced by Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, would waive those requirements and allow an individual who otherwise would not be prohibited from possessing or carrying a gun in Nebraska to conceal carry a firearm without a permit. Registration and training courses still would be offered but would no longer be required.

The bill — referred to by proponents as “constitutional carry” based on their contention that the right to bear concealed arms should not be limited by state laws — was advanced from general file March 9 after a prior successful procedural motion to pull it from the Judiciary Committee. The committee was deadlocked and had not voted to advance the bill or to kill it.

Brewer said that for individuals in small communities where law enforcement is limited, having a gun is necessary. Additionally, he said, the current wait time to receive a concealed carry permit can be between 60 to 90 days — a time frame that may be too long for individuals in domestic violence situations.

“I have counties with one police officer,” Brewer said. “We can [design] all laws around those who break the law in Lincoln and Omaha and that becomes the standard, but that is not reflective of what our Constitution says. This is simply a matter of allowing folks to exercise the rights that they’re given in the Constitution.”

Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman spoke in support of LB773, saying the majority of Nebraskans support the proposition. The argument that communities and police officers would no longer be safe if the bill passes simply is not true, he said. Criminals currently are prohibited from obtaining a permit, he said, and LB773 wouldn’t change that.

“So whether you have open carry, constitutional carry or concealed carry [it] isn’t going to make any difference to the criminals,” Erdman said.

Omaha Sen. Megan Hunt spoke in opposition to the proposal. Most gun owners agree that laws and regulation are necessary to keep communities safe, she said.

“My concern is around who has access to guns and who appoints themself in this position to being a vigilante law enforcement officer and the fact that actual trained law enforcement officers are against this whole idea,” Hunt said. “What I’m only concerned about is public safety.”

Additionally, Hunt said that LB773 would not aid domestic violence situations because studies show that when a gun is in the home, rates of domestic violence increase.

Brewer offered an amendment during select file debate that he said was a compromise to remove opposition to the bill from the Omaha Police Department. Among other provisions, the amendment would allow a metropolitan class city — Omaha is the only metropolitan class city in Nebraska — to require handgun registration, except for individuals with a conceal carry permit. The amendment also would make it an additional offense to carry a concealed handgun during the commission of an array of other offenses.

“[The amendment] is an agreement that we were able to work out through extensive negotiations with the city of Omaha, the Omaha Police Department and the Omaha Gang Unit,” Brewer said. “This amendment makes the bill more workable and manageable for law enforcement and I think it strikes a balance that we can live with.”

Speaking in opposition, Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld said the amendment would create several new crimes and penalties while simultaneously eliminating the education and training requirements — a move that several police departments in the state oppose.

“[Under the amendment] we are eliminating the training requirement — which is fairly comprehensive — and then we’re increasing penalties and we’re expecting gun owners … to know all of those different laws,” Morfeld said. “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, but there’s going to be a bunch of law-abiding gun owners [who are] going to be caught up in this.”

Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney also spoke in opposition to the amendment, saying that the “carve out” for the Omaha Police Department would allow them to continue to overpolice and discriminate against Black people. Nebraska has the 10th highest incarceration rate for Black individuals, McKinney said.

“I don’t think there should be a carve out for Omaha, the [OPD] or the Gang Unit,” McKinney said. “They shouldn’t have the right to target people and that is my problem with the amendment.”

Lawmakers voted down the Brewer amendment 13-29.

After four hours of debate, Brewer filed a motion to invoke cloture, which ends debate and forces a vote on the bill and any pending amendments. The motion failed on a vote of 31-9. Thirty-three votes were needed. It is unlikely the bill will be debated again this session.

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