Gun rights activists in Nebraska have been working toward permitless carry for a while. Like a lot of states, they face significant challenges from their larger urban centers like Omaha, but this year, things appear to be working in their favor.
But challenges don’t just go away.
Which is why a recent move by black Democrats in the state is so interesting.
While the bill would not usurp the federal requirement for a background check to buy a gun, it would allow people to carry guns hidden in their clothing or vehicle without having to pay for a government permit or take a now-required gun safety course. It also would override stricter gun laws in the state’s cities, including in the state’s largest city of Omaha, which requires a conceal carry license for anyone carrying a gun in a car — even if the gun is in open view.
It’s that Omaha law that spurred Omaha Sens. Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney to break party ranks and support the bill.
“How many young African American and Latino kinds are affected by Omaha’s gun laws?” asked Wayne on the Senate floor. Young Black people in Omaha are often charged with gun possession violations when a gun that’s not theirs is found in a car they’re riding in, Wayne said.
The practice, known in law enforcement circles as “bumping up,” disproportionally affects people of color, he said.
“When they’re talking about bumping up kids in Omaha, they’re not talking about kids in Bennington,” Wayne said, referring to the overwhelmingly white bedroom community north of Omaha. “They’re not talking about kids in western Nebraska.”
McKinney said the creation of early gun control laws in the U.S. “was out of fear of Black people.”
McKinney isn’t wrong in the least by saying that last bit, either.
Both Wayne and McKinney are also right when they point out that gun control laws, such as the one in Omaha, disproportionately impact black men.
Now, is that due to racist design, racist application of the law, or some factor that has nothing to do with race? That’s a matter of debate, I’m sure, but the point remains that the law does disproportionately hit Nebraska’s black community compared to white people.
And if that’s the reason they want to support permitless carry, I’m all for it.
Look, criminals are already carrying guns without permits. They’ve been doing it for a very long time. However, Nebraska’s permitting requirements make it a challenge for law-abiding people to even get a permit. Sure, it may not have been New York or California’s pre-Bruen requirements, but when people have to travel significant distances just to apply for a permit, you’ve got an issue.
Permitless carry in Nebraska would solve a lot of these issues.
Further, there is the fact that a permitting requirement isn’t even hinted at in the Second Amendment. It’s the right to keep and bear arms, after all.
So there are plenty of reasons to oppose the current system and want permitless carry in Nebraska.
But these two men taking this particular stand is fascinating. Their reasons aren’t overly surprising, but if more black Democrats and activists made this particular stand as well, it would be interesting to see the shift in gun control discussions going forward.
After all, Democrats often claim a law is racist if it seems to jam up black people more often than white folks, yet tend to ignore this fact when it comes to guns. McKinney and Wayne are kind of making it difficult for them to just look away this time around.