Sen. Jacobson votes ‘no’ on amendment to ‘constitutional carry’ bill, says it made bill ‘just very convoluted’ | Latest Headlines

Concealed Carry

A bill allowing Nebraskans to carry concealed weapons without a permit missed the mark Monday in the Legislature.

Lawmakers voted 31-9 in favor of a filibuster-ending cloture motion on Legislative Bill 773, two short of the 33 needed to succeed. The vote means the measure is dead for the year.

All six western Nebraska senators voted to cut off debate. So did north Omaha Sens. Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney, the Unicameral’s lone Black lawmakers.

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, LB 773’s sponsor, has his sights set on trying again next year.

“Next year we’ll start over again,” he vowed, predicting that newly elected lawmakers will change the makeup of the Legislature and provide enough votes for the measure to pass.

Under LB 773, which was co-sponsored by a majority of state senators, Nebraska adults who were not otherwise banned from having guns would no longer have had to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

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Measures like this are sometimes called “constitutional carry” in reference to some gun rights advocates’ belief that the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to carry concealed guns without a permit.

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.

The measure would have allowed people to still get concealed-carry permits, which Brewer said they may want to do to carry a gun across state lines or potentially expedite a background check for purchasing a gun.

The bill initially faced opposition from most major law enforcement agencies in the state, including the Lincoln Police Department. Many nonmetro county sheriffs backed it.

Following lengthy negotiations with Brewer, the Omaha Police Officers Association and the Omaha Police Department agreed to take a neutral position if lawmakers adopted a compromise amendment worked out with them.

But the Omaha “carveout” failed, 29-13, with hard-line gun rights advocates joining those who favored gun restrictions to shoot it down.

The Omaha police union then switched back to opposition and began urging senators to vote against the bill.

Brewer’s amendment split the western Nebraska delegation down the middle.

Sens. Matt Williams of Gothenburg and John Stinner of Gering joined Brewer in voted “yes” on the amendment but Sens. Mike Jacobson of North Platte, Steve Erdman of Bayard and Dan Hughes of Venango opposed it.

Jacobson said after LB 773’s fatal stall that “99.9% of my email (writers) wanted a clean bill” without amendments.

“That’s (also) what the NRA wanted,” meaning the National Rifle Association, said Jacobson, who succeeded former District 42 Sen. Mike Groene Feb. 23.

He said Brewer’s bill would have been “just very convoluted” with the amendment, because concealed-carry laws would have been different in Omaha’s suburbs and scattered, unannexed “sanitary improvement districts” than inside Omaha’s city limits.

As he counted the votes, Jacobson added, the “carveout” amendment’s defeat cost LB 773 about as many votes as it gained.

“I truly believe it wouldn’t have passed either way,” he said. “The tradeoff with the amendment wouldn’t have gotten us past the finish line.”

The compromise amendment would have allowed cities of the metropolitan class, meaning Omaha, to continue to require registration of all handguns other than those owned by people with a concealed-carry permit.

Omaha would not have been allowed to deny registrations to anyone allowed by state law to own a gun.

The amendment also would have made it a crime to carry a concealed handgun while committing any of a lengthy list of offenses. The list ranges from murder to “unauthorized” graffiti and includes violations of city or village ordinances as well as state laws.

Some senators expressed concerns about the compromise, saying it would carve out Omaha residents for different treatment and would add new criminal charges to the books.

The African American senators, McKinney and Wayne, had said during LB 773’s three previous debates that Brewer’s bill appealed to many of their constituents — as long as the Omaha “carveout” stayed out.

The pair respectively represent Districts 11 and 13 in northeast Omaha. Legendary Sen. Ernie Chambers was District 11’s senator all but four years from 1971 to 2021.

A clean version of LB 773, McKinney said Monday, would have greatly hindered Omaha police and especially their gang unit from using concealed-weapon charges to target north Omaha’s Black residents.

LB 773 would not have loosened restrictions on gun ownership or changed laws governing where concealed weapons could be prohibited, such as schools.

Nor would it have allowed people to carry concealed weapons while drinking or using drugs.

The bill would have required a person carrying a concealed weapon to announce its presence during encounters with law enforcement or emergency services personnel.

People without concealed-carry permits would have had to carry identification and show it upon request by those authorities.

Telegraph reporter Todd von Kampen contributed to this report.

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