Nebraska Constitutional Carry bill overcomes filibuster threat, appears poised for passage

Nebraska Constitutional Carry bill overcomes filibuster threat, appears poised for passage

Nebraskans are closer than ever before to not having to obtain a government-issued permission slip before exercising their right to bear arms in self-defense after lawmakers voted to advance a Constitutional Carry bill on Friday morning, overcoming a filibuster attempt by Democratic opponents that stretched over three days.

LB 77 passed first reading by a vote of 36-12 shortly before noon on Friday; the strongest sign yet that the bill’s chances of passage are much better than in recent years. Sen. Tom Brewer has brought forward a Constitutional Carry bill for several sessions running, and last year came just two votes short of ending the Democrats’ filibuster. In last November’s elections Republicans were able to make some additional gains in the unicameral legislature, while Brewer was able to defuse the objections and win the support or neutrality of the state’s largest police unions by offering an amendment that will enhance the penalties for using a firearm in the commission of some crimes.

The outcome of the initial vote on LB 77 wasn’t guaranteed to go gun owners’ way, but some of the Democratic lawmakers filibustering the bill seemed resigned to likelihood of the measure becoming law; hoping to slow down the process if they couldn’t derail the bill completely.

“‘I’m here to take up time,” Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh of Omaha told her colleagues in advance of motions to reconsider votes, require roll call votes and invoke a “call of the house” to require all absent senators to return to the legislative chamber and be seated before votes are cast.

“Our committees are not balanced,” Cavanaugh said in surveying a conservative grip on the legislative session.

“We’re rushing things through,” she said.

Give me a break. Constitutional Carry has been heard for several sessions running, so it’s ridiculous to say the issue has been rushed by lawmakers. It’s the probable outcome that senators like Cavanaugh are really objecting to, not the process. As for her complaints that legislative committees aren’t balanced, that’s what happens when one party dominates a legislative body. It’s not like Republicans have equal representation in California’s legislative committees, and Democrats in Sacramento are unconcerned about whether or not that’s unfair to the minority. Why should Republicans in Omaha feel any differently?

Despite the fact that LB 77 passed first reading today, it could still take some time for the legislation to get to the desk of Gov. Jim Pillen. The eight hours of debate before the bill’s initial vote can be followed by another four hours of debate ahead of a second vote, and two additional hours of debate can be held before LB 77’s third and final reading, which will likely come early next week.

I certainly don’t expect lawmakers to dawdle with the bill, especially with Florida’s legislative session kicking off next Tuesday and permitless carry already queued up and awaiting a floor vote. I’m not sure that being the 26th state to adopt permitless or Constitutional Carry comes with a ton of bragging rights, but it beats being 27th, and I have a feeling that Nebraska lawmakers (at least the ones backing Constitutional Carry) would love to turn their bill into law before Florida legislators get the chance to do the same.

What happens in Nebraska and Florida may also have an impact on the debate over Constitutional Carry in South Carolina, where the state House has also approved a Constitutional Carry bill. There’s legitimate concern that some GOP senators aren’t on board with the bill, but seeing two more states sign off on legal gun owners exercising their right to bear arms without having to get a government-issued permission slip beforehand will hopefully put some pressure on those on-the-fence Republicans to get on board and make South Carolina the 28th permitless carry state.

There’s still some opportunity for Democrats to try to play games with the legislative fate of LB 77, but after today’s vote the prospect of passage is better than ever and I feel pretty darn good about the odds of success, though I’m going to save my congratulations for the day that Gov. Pillen puts pen to paper and enshrines LB 77 into law…. an event that is hopefully soon to be on the governor’s schedule.