Nebraska permitless carry bill fails after filibuster

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

This has been a pretty great year for Constitutional Carry bills, with legislation signed into law in Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, and Alabama. There’s even a chance that Florida lawmakers will approve a permitless carry bill in its upcoming special session, but despite broad support in the Nebraska legislature, the Cornhusker State will not be joining the ranks of Constitutional Carry states this year. On Tuesday supporters fell two votes short of defeating a filibuster after first attempting to amend the bill to satisfy concerns of politicians and police in the state’s biggest city.

“What we’re asking here is nothing that isn’t being done in many other states. And guess what? They have not turned into the wild wild west, the world has not come to an end. They’re moving ahead, just fine,” [state Senator Tom] Brewer said.

But he needed a compromise amendment tacked on to the measure.

It was negotiated with the Omaha Police Department and Union and would have allowed Omaha as the only Metropolitan Class city in the state to keep its handgun registration ordinance.

That amendment failed on a 13-29 vote when many supporters of the original bill joined with progressive senators in opposing the ‘Omaha carve out’ to the measure.

Omaha Police Union President Sgt. Tony Conner said the amendment would have kept them neutral on the bill.

“Once the amendment got voted down we decided to switch to the opposition,” Conner said.

The amendment may have been necessary to curb the opposition of the Omaha police union, but it also would have gutted the original intent of the bill. What is the point of declaring that you shouldn’t have to obtain a government-issued permission slip to exercise a constitutionally-protected right… unless you live in a decent-sized city, in which case, you absolutely must let the government know that you’re a gun owner?

I don’t blame the Constitutional Carry supporters who voted against that amendment. If I’d been in the state’s unicameral legislature I would have done the same. This isn’t a case of letting “perfect” be the enemy of “good”, either. The amendment would have meant that nearly 1 in 4 Nebraska residents wouldn’t have been covered by the Constitutional Carry language, which is hardly a minor exception.

Brewer became visibly upset as the deal fell apart and at one point walked out of the Legislative Chamber.

“To say I’m frustrated is an understatement. There are certain people in this body I trusted for a number of reasons. I made a mistake,” Brewer said.

He said he and other Second Amendment supporters will be back next year and they will not forget.

“I’ve given six years of my life and my priority bill on this. And you better believe that I will have a long and clear memory,” Brewer said.

I hope he does re-introduce a clean Constitutional Carry bill next year, and I encourage every gun owner in the state to get behind it. But as long as Omaha has such an outsized influence on lawmakers, it’s hard to for me to imagine a scenario where the votes are there for a clean bill, and any Omaha exception is going to continue to be a non-starter for many Second Amendment supporters. Maybe Brewer can point out all of the cities bigger than Omaha that have found a way to implement Constitutional Carry without anarchy ensuing; Phoenix, St. Louis, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Houston, Nashville, and Salt Lake City, to name just a few.

I also hope that gun owners and Constitutional Carry supporters can keep a conversation going with the Omaha police union in an attempt to get the group to drop its objections without keeping a gun registration requirement in place, which seems like the easiest way to reduce the opposition from state senators. Failing that, it’s going to take convincing a few more state senators that passing Constitutional Carry isn’t just the right thing to do for Nebraskans, but the best way to ensure their re-election the next time voters have a chance to cast a ballot on who will represent them.

It’s disappointing and frustrating to see Constitutional Carry fail in Nebraska, especially given the support from Gov. Pete Ricketts. Still, if the only way for the legislation to get to Ricketts’ desk was by watering it down so much that it didn’t apply to the biggest city in the state, it’s better to scrap the bill and try again next year.