Constitutional or permitless carry bills are continuing to make progress in states like Florida and South Carolina, but in Nebraska the push is once again meeting with resistance from the police chiefs in Omaha and Lincoln. While the objections are definitely slowing down the legislative process the bill’s primary sponsor says he still believes the legislation is in a “good place”, pointing to the recent decision by the police union in Omaha to drop its formal opposition to the proposal and remain neutral. That’s a change from last year, when permitless carry failed to overcome a filibuster by two votes, and Sen. Tom Brewer says he believes some tweaks to the current legislation are making a difference this time around.
A year ago, the Omaha police union fought to retain the city’s gun control ordinances when a constitutional carry measure was debated.
But Sgt. Tony Connor, president of the OPOA, said that when union members were asked what “must haves” they wanted in this year’s bill, other priorities rose to the top.
As a result, the new amendment to LB 77 includes OPOA-suggested changes that would increase penalties for “prohibited persons” carrying concealed guns and failing to “immediately inform” a police officer that you are carrying a concealed weapon. It also would make some misdemeanor offenses, such as domestic violence and resisting arrest, qualify for enhanced penalties if a concealed gun was involved.
The new amendment would leave unchanged the aspect of LB 77 that removes the power of cities, counties and villages to regulate guns, including requiring gun registration, as is done in Omaha.
Connor said the OPOA was seeking a “middle ground” with the senator and is now OK with dropping the city gun ordinances.
“As much as it helps those officers, we knew this was something we could walk away with to find a compromise with Senator Brewer,” he said, adding that the OPOA is now “neutral” on the bill.
Omaha’s local gun registration ordinance has always been an outlier in state law, but local officials have fought to keep those provisions in place even if the state drops its mandate that legal gun owners seek a permission slip from authorities before they can exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense. While the Omaha police union is now neutral on the bill, the city’s police chief and mayor remain opposed; in large part because it would establish a clear system of firearms preemption in the state and provide for a uniform body of gun laws set by the state legislature and not local city councils.
The behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing is likely to continue for at least another day or two, but with the unicameral legislature set to vote on LB 77 on Wednesday, Brewer doesn’t have much time to solidify support for the measure among lawmakers.
Last year, Brewer blamed the defeat of his bill on his attempts to find common ground with the Cities of Omaha and Lincoln and their police unions. He vowed this year to present a “clean” proposal, without amendments.
But just in the past few days, talks began to amend LB 77 to address concerns of the Omaha police union and State Sen. Suzanne Geist of Lincoln, who is running for mayor of Lincoln.
Geist, on Friday, said she had not yet had a chance to talk to Brewer about the new amendment. She said she still was seeking a small change in the bill, adding “we’re very close.”
Brewer said he expects that the Lincoln senator will help him overcome a filibuster, if not vote “yes” on the bill.
“She’s running for mayor and I think she’ll want to keep the police union happy,” he said.
The trick is going to be keeping the police unions happy without watering down the legislation to the point that Second Amendment supporters find it unacceptable. I don’t think we’re at that point yet, and hopefully we never get there, but a lot can happen between now and Wednesday and I hope that Nebraska Second Amendment supporters are sounding off and encouraging their senators to back LB 77 without any anti-gun amendments that turn permitless carry into a poison pill for gun owners.