While most of the media’s recent attention to permitless carry has been centered on Florida possibly becoming the 26th state to approve the law, Nebraska could actually get there first. Lawmakers in the state’s unicameral legislature began debate on a bill offered by Sen. Tom Brewer on Wednesday and a vote could be held by the end of the week, though Democrats in the senate are pulling out all the stops to delay the vote as long as possible.
Sen. Jane Raybould is leading the Democratic filibuster against LB 77, and on Wednesday tried to use the Supreme Court’s decision in Heller v. D.C. to argue that the legislation is unnecessary.
Currently in Nebraska, getting a concealed-carry permit requires passing a criminal background check, paying a $100 fee and taking an eight- to 16-hour gun safety class.“People should not have to prove that they deserve a right that is guaranteed to them in the Constitution,” Brewer said.Raybould countered by citing late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who said Second Amendment rights are “not unlimited.”
It’s true that Scalia did say that in Heller, but that also has nothing to do with the permitless carry bill up for debate. Heck, the Supreme Court said in Bruen that “shall issue” laws aren’t unconstitutional in and of themselves, but that doesn’t mean that states must issue a permission slip before legal gun owners can exercise their right to bear arms in public.
While Democrats like Raybould object to the underlying intent of the legislation, Brewer has managed to get many law enforcement agencies on board with the proposal by offering up a couple of tweaks; most of which shouldn’t impact responsible gun owners.
Brewer opened debate Wednesday by introducing an amendment that he said gained the support from the Nebraska Sheriffs Association and the Police Officers Association of Nebraska, and changed the Omaha police union’s position to neutral on the bill.Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins remain opposed to LB 77.Brewer’s amendment primarily increases penalties for certain crimes committed while carrying a firearm. He said the intent is to address some of the concerns from law enforcement, and clarify that the expanded firearm access is only meant to be for law-abiding citizens.“Don’t do bad things with guns, and bad things won’t happen to you,” Brewer said.Under the amendment, an individual would receive an added misdemeanor charge if they carry a firearm while committing certain “dangerous misdemeanors,” including domestic assault, shoplifting or stalking. It would also be a felony upon the third offense of an individual failing to notify a law enforcement official that they are carrying a weapon.The amendment saw widespread support from Republican lawmakers, while registered Democrats in the Legislature were more mixed. Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said she supported the amendment, while Sen. John Cavanaugh of Omaha argued that it made substantial changes and should be subject to a committee hearing like the main bill.
I’m a little concerned about the felony for failing to notify police that they’re carrying, even if that only kicks in on a third offense, but I wouldn’t consider that a dealbreaker. Of course, I don’t have a vote in the Nebraska Senate, and the real question is whether Brewer has the 33 votes necessary to end the filibuster. Last year Brewer’s attempt to enshrine permitless carry into law ended up two votes short, and the amendment he offered on Wednesday suggests he’s still trying to gain support for the measure as the bill heads into the home stretch.
The vote on LB 77 looks like it could be a nail-biter, and Nebraska gun owners are hopefully reaching out to their senators and urging them to get on board with the bill before a final vote is held. We’ll be following the debate at the statehouse as it continues, and I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll be able to report some great news on Friday.