Nebraska Constitutional Carry bill set for debate, but there's a catch

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

We haven’t written much about the attempt by Republican lawmakers to make Nebraska a Constitutional Carry state this year because, honestly, there hasn’t been a lot of action. I did cover Gov. Pete Rickett’s full-throated endorsement of the measure at this year’s SHOT Show, and in an update to Constitutional Carry efforts across the country late last week I noted that the Nebraska bill was still picking up co-sponsors.

Still, the bill was languishing in the unicameral legislature’s Judiciary Committee, and given the fact that a similar bill stalled out in the legislature last year, I’d put Nebraska near the bottom of my list of states likely to adopt Constitutional Carry.

It might be time to update that list, however, because the permitless carry bill is now heading to the floor for a debate later this week.

Lawmakers voted, 30-12, on Tuesday to pull the measure out of the left-leaning Judiciary Committee where it had stalled. Lawmakers are scheduled to debate it Thursday.

Opponents argued that forcing the bill out of committee would undermine the process that relies on committees to vet proposals before they’re debated in the full Legislature. Supporters said the guns measure enjoys strong public support in Nebraska, and argued that the rule that allows lawmakers to pull bills out of committee exists for a reason.

So, the good news is that there was overwhelming support for bringing the bill to the floor for debate. The bad news is that permitless carry bill may be modified in order to get some law enforcement to drop their objections, and the changes are likely to be unpalatable for many 2A activists.

At a public hearing in January, the bill faced stiff opposition from law enforcement representatives and gun control advocates. [Sen. Tom] Brewer has since worked out a compromise with the Omaha Police Officers Association and Omaha Police Department.

Both groups have agreed to stop fighting the bill and adopt a neutral position if lawmakers adopt an amendment that Brewer filed last week. But it still faces opposition from the Lincoln Police Department and Lincoln Police Officers Association.

The amendment would allow cities of the metropolitan class, meaning Omaha but not Lincoln, to require registration of all handguns, other than those owned by people with a concealed-carry permit. The city could not deny registrations to anyone allowed by state law to own a gun.

That gets a hard “no” from me. The whole point of Constitutional Carry is that you shouldn’t have to get permission from the government before exercising your right to keep and bear arms, so requiring residents of Nebraska’s biggest city to either continue to obtain a carry license or register their handguns with their local government completely undercuts the premise of the legislation.

I appreciate that Sen. Brewer is trying to get the best bill possible, but making Omaha gun owners choose between a government-mandated carry license and a government-mandated registration card doesn’t sound like an improvement to me.

Nebraska lawmakers aren’t going to be able to please everyone when it comes to Constitutional Carry, but I would note that the law is in place in 21 states across the nation and law enforcement is still able to do their job in each and every one of them. I believe their objections are unwarranted and unfounded, and their “neutrality” isn’t worth gutting the bill of its benefit to many Nebraska gun owners.

I have no idea what will happen during Thursday’s debate, but I hope every Constitutional Carry supporter in the state will contact their senators and demand passage of a clean bill; not one that replaces a carry license mandate with a gun registration requirement for Omaha handgun owners.