Nebraska Town Backtracks on 'Gun-Free Zones' After Residents Cry Foul

Mark Humphrey

Back in early October, the city council in Kearney, Nebraska adopted a resolution affirming the city’s power to ban firearms on city-owned property and reminding private business owners that if they want to do the same they need to post clear signage to that effect. One of the issues that rubbed many residents the wrong way was the perceived intent behind the resolution. City Attorney Michael Tye and the city’s police chief Bryan Waugh wrote in a memo sent to the Kearney City Council that they believed “establishing a policy restricting weapons and handguns, concealed or open, with or without a permit, on all managed, leased, and owned property together with signage reflecting this policy, would be appropriate.”


In other words, any location under the city’s control should be deemed a “gun-free zone.” As you can imagine, that didn’t sit well with gun owners in the city of about 30,000 residents, and this week Second Amendment supporters packed the city council meeting to demand the resolution be rescinded. Amazingly enough, the city council actually listened to voters and rescinded the resolution on a 3-2 vote.

The 3-2 vote also denied an amended resolution prepared for council consideration. The amended resolution was intended to cut through concerns and confusion generated by the Oct. 10 resolution.

With neither of those two resolutions gaining council support, the city of Kearney now is without the local authority to post where weapons are prohibited. That means signage will be removed at City Hall, the Kearney Public Library, Peterson Senior Activity Center, Mitzi’s Pavilion at Yanney Park, and an assortment of other city venues.

“With this action, the city doesn’t have the authority to post signage,” Mayor Stan Clouse said as he moved to deny and rescind the signage resolutions.

Trent Loos was one of those in attendance at this week’s city council meeting, and he says while he was adamantly opposed to the resolution, he doesn’t believe there was any anti-Second Amendment sentiment behind it. Instead, he thinks city council members believed they were acting to protect the public, without really considering how much protection a “no guns allowed” sign really offers.


Now I think the bigger issue at hand here is that nobody showed up the first day the ordinance was passed. We have that problem in a bad way. We tend not to pay attention to issues until our back is against the wall. In all fairness there was no publication of the topic prior to initial passage but what is most important here is when the public found out this body put it back on the agenda and the council fixed the problem by a 3-to-2 vote.

Unfortunately, that’s a problem all around the country, and not just in Kearney. Most of us are not regular attendees at our city or county governmental meetings, even when there’s a contentious issue up for discussion. The initial vote in favor of the resolution may have taken place in front of a just handful of residents, but even the packed house of more than 100 gun owners that saw the resolution repealed was just a small fraction of Kearney’s population. That’s not great for our civic institutions, but it does mean that those who do show up have an outsized impact on lawmakers.

There are lessons to be learned from what happened in Kearney, both for elected officials and Second Amendment advocates. Local politicians, particularly in places where there’s a strong tradition of gun ownership and respect for the Second Amendment, shouldn’t go off half-cocked (so to speak) and craft any measure impacting legal gun owners without first getting their input.  Those gun owners, meanwhile, need to show up when their rights are on the line and remind their local officials of their duty to obey and protect the Constitution. Kudos to the gun owners in Kearney who did just that and convinced a majority of the city council to fix its mistake.


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