Starting today, Nebraskans who are 21 and older will be allowed to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
Legislative Bill 77 is one of several bills the Nebraska Legislature passed this year that takes effect Sept. 2. The bill will apply statewide and invalidate several local gun ordinances. However, city governments in Omaha and Lincoln have taken steps to ban firearms in public spaces in response to the law.
Previously in Nebraska, getting a concealed carry permit required passing a criminal background check, paying a $100 fee and taking an eight- to 16-hour gun safety class.
Measures like LB 77 are sometimes called “constitutional carry” in reference to some gun rights advocates’ belief that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to carry concealed guns without a permit.
The bill’s introducer, State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, had been trying to pass legislation similar to LB 77 since taking office in 2017. In a written statement last week, Brewer celebrated the law, saying that “Nebraskans will no longer have to ask the government for permission to carry a concealed handgun.”
“Nebraska’s laws are about to more closely resemble our Nebraska values,” Brewer said. “Let’s show the world what we can do with an extra measure of liberty.”
LB 77 was one of the more contentious debates during this year’s legislative session, with strong opinions expressed by both sides. The bill got mixed reviews from local law enforcement agencies and city governments.
Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and a majority of Omaha City Council members opposed LB 77. Earlier this week, Stothert issued an executive order banning firearms on city-owned properties. It also takes effect Saturday.
Also this week, however, the council voted to repeal 22 city gun ordinances and amend eight others because LB 77 made them invalid. Brewer said the new law will have the biggest effect on Omaha and Lincoln.
“We don’t want to be doing this,” Omaha City Council President Pete Festersen said. “It’s required by the new law.”
Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird signed a similar executive order Friday, banning weapons on city properties including buildings, libraries and parks. According to a Lincoln press release, similar resolutions were also recently passed by the Lincoln-Lancaster County Public Building Commission and the West Haymarket Joint Public Agency.
Dick Clark, legal counsel for the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, said cities have the right to ban firearms in buildings, as does any private property owner. However, he said he’s not sure how the orders will hold up legally when it comes to open public spaces, such as parking lots or parks.
With city parks, Clark said, visitors must be adequately notified about the restrictions, which could pose a logistical problem. He said signs would have to be posted at every entrance, if not more frequently.
“I think practically, the city might have a problem,” Clark said.
Clark said he viewed Stothert’s order as “retaliation against gun owners” because the city doesn’t agree with the Legislature’s actions. He was not aware of Gaylor Baird’s executive order at the time he made that comment.
Litigation could be introduced in response to the Omaha mayoral order, Clark said, and mentioned that officials with the National Rifle Association are already looking into legal options.
“I think it’s a dangerous game they’re playing,” Clark said.
Clark said Brewer’s office is evaluating whether legislation is necessary to counter the new restrictions, but he is hoping additional bills won’t be needed.
LB 77 allows people to continue getting concealed carry permits if they want. Brewer said he plans to continue renewing his permit to use in purchasing handguns and while traveling to other states.
The new law will not change who is allowed to purchase firearms in Nebraska. An amendment folded into LB 77 added an extra misdemeanor charge if someone carries a firearm while committing certain “dangerous misdemeanors,” including domestic assault, shoplifting or stalking. It also will make it a felony, on a third offense, for people to fail to notify a law enforcement official that they were carrying a weapon.
Sen. Jane Raybould of Lincoln, a leading opponent og LB 77 during this year’s debate, said she believes the law will contribute to a rise in gun violence, and has already made some residents feel less safe.
“It’s just another sad day in Nebraska,” Raybould said.
Raybould had introduced LB 482, which would allow courts to intervene in cases when someone has access to a firearm and is considered to be a danger to themselves or others. Measures like this are commonly referred to as “red flag” laws.
LB 482 stalled in the Legislature this year. While Raybould said she is currently discussing options, she doesn’t have much hope for her bill or other gun safety legislation given the Legislature’s current makeup.
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