Is Constitutional Carry in trouble in Nebraska?

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

When Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts appeared at the 2022 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada a couple of weeks ago, he gave his endorsement and approval of Constitutional Carry in the state. Yet despite that very public display of support by the state’s chief executive, passage of permitless carry has been anything but swift and smooth.

And to be fair, that’s probably to be expected. Sen. Tom Brewer, introduced similar legislation last year, only to see it get watered down by amendments to the point that it wasn’t really permitless carry at all, at least not in the state’s population centers, which would have still been able to require a valid carry permit before lawfully carrying concealed.

This year, not only does Brewer have to deal with opposition from Democratic legislators, but the legislative calendar as well.

Here are some of the obstacles facing a constitutional carry bill in the 60-day, 2022 session that begins Jan. 5:

It’s a new proposal, which will require a public hearing, advancement by a legislative committee, then three rounds of debate and approval. Sen. Mike Hilgers of Lincoln, the speaker of the Legislature, has already said it will be a busy session, with debates over how to spend federal COVID-19 aid presenting another issue.

A constitutional carry bill would likely be referenced to the Judiciary Committee, which hasn’t been friendly to similar proposals. Brewer has said he will likely have to introduce a “pull motion” to advance the bill to the floor of the Legislature for debate without the committee’s consent. If the Judiciary Committee voted to kill the bill in committee, such a pull motion would require votes from 30 of the 49 state senators, instead of the usual 25 votes.

We’re now almost a full four weeks into the legislative session, and while the bill has had a public hearing in the Judiciary Committee, it has not yet come up for a vote.

That doesn’t mean the bill is doomed to defeat, but I’d feel a lot better if there were more senators making passage their personal priority like Brewer and his colleague, Sen. Julie Slama, who recently penned a column to constituents in support of the measure.

As the law is written now, the Second Amendment is only available to people that can afford it. It costs over one hundred dollars to take the required training for a Concealed Handgun Permit. On top of that, it costs one hundred dollars for the permit itself, and fifty dollars for getting that license reissued. The people who are most impacted by violent crimes are generally lower-income individuals in low-income areas. It is a disservice to our fellow Nebraskans to keep them from practicing their constitutional rights simply because they cannot afford to pay the fees to get a permit.

Constitutional carry laws are not new, nor are they controversial, as some might make them out to be. Twenty-one states currently have permitless carry, including our neighbors Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Wyoming, and South Dakota. In all of these states, there have not been any movements to rescind the law allowing constitutional carry.

Carrying a firearm is not a special privilege of those that can afford it. It is a right. I look forward to getting this bill across the finish line so that people can finally practice their right to bear arms in Nebraska freely.

While Sen. Slama gets it, other lawmakers might not truly appreciate the importance of Constitutional Carry. Over at Slow Facts, Rob Morse has some interesting data for gun owners to use when contacting their own legislators in the state.

I ran the numbers. I looked at the crime rate and the number of Nebraskans who have their permit today. An additional 560 Nebraska citizens would defend themselves with a firearm each year if a carry permit were optional. That doesn’t mean that 560 more people shoot and kill the bad guy. That almost never happens. The great news is that bad guys decide that attacking an armed woman was a mistake. He runs away, and we want more of that. To put it into perspective, 560 more cases of armed defense is over twice the number of lives lost on Nebraska roads each year. That is a lot of lives we can save.

I’d encourage everyone to read Rob’s entire piece, but especially you Nebraska gun owners out there. There’s still a good chance to get Constitutional Carry approved this year, but it’s not going to happen without real effort and engagement on the part of the 2A community.