Nebraska lawmaker reintroduces constitutional carry bill

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Constitutional carry is the gold standard when it comes to gun rights. It’s quickly becoming a demarcation line for which states pretend to be pro-gun and which states really are.

As we gear up for 2022, a number of permitless carry bills have been filed in various states.

It seems that Nebraska is ready to make another run at potentially passing such a bill.

Sen. Tom Brewer, a decorated veteran who knows something about overcoming adversity, is loading up another effort to obtain a victory that has eluded gun-rights advocates in Nebraska.

Brewer said he will introduce a proposal during the upcoming legislative session to allow Nebraskans to carry a concealed handgun without meeting the current requirements of a criminal background check, a $100 fee and an eight- to 16-hour class on safe gun handling.

Constitutional carry — which refers to the belief that the U.S. Constitution already gives people the right to carry concealed guns — is a hot-button issue that has previously failed in the Nebraska Legislature. But it’s the law in 21 states, including every state surrounding Nebraska except Colorado.

Earlier this year, Brewer abandoned a proposal that would have allowed Nebraska counties, with the exception of the three largest — Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy — to decide whether to allow permit-less carry of concealed handguns. Brewer’s decision came after a Nebraska attorney general’s opinion raised serious constitutional concerns about delegating a state matter to county boards.

But Brewer, who represents Nebraska’s traditionally conservative Sandhills, got a boost recently from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Speaking during a town hall meeting organized by the National Rifle Association, Ricketts pledged to sign a statewide constitutional carry bill if it reaches his desk. While that was hardly a surprise, the pledge did reinforce the governor’s pro-gun credentials.

So this is good news, right?

Maybe, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Friends in Nebraska tell me that Omaha and Lincoln have a lot of power within the state and can likely block most pro-gun bills.

How else does a rural state like Nebraska end up with a $100 permitting fee and an eight- to 16-hour class as a permit requirement? It sure as hell isn’t hunters and farmers demanding that kind of thing.

However, if Brewer can get this passed, it may signal that sensibilities among urban voters may well be shifting. Yes, Omaha is a far cry from New York City or Boston, but it’s a start.

And if you’re one of the folks living in Nebraska, I’m pretty sure you’re not worried so much about whether those sensibilities change but more about whether you’ll get constitutional carry or not. That’s infinitely more important to most of them, as it should be.

Frankly, this may be one of the more interesting constitutional carry battles to watch, in part because of how Nebraska’s system is set up.

It should also be remembered that Nebraska doesn’t have a bicameral legislature. They have the one chamber of the legislature – everyone elected to it is termed “senator” – and that’s pretty much it, so this should be interesting. Unfortunately, because they also don’t recognize political parties, it’s kind of hard to look at the makeup of the legislature to get an idea of how things will shake out.

Still, if this happens in Nebraska, there’s not a lot of red states that’ll have an excuse for not becoming constitutional carry states.