LINCOLN — After being forced to abandon his attempt to allow permitless carry of concealed firearms in most Nebraska counties, State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon is planning a counter-offensive in 2022.
Brewer, a decorated military veteran and competitive shooter, said he will seek approval of so-called "constitutional carry" of concealed guns statewide, not just in 90 of 93 counties as his recently revised bill would have done.
He'll have a powerful ally, Gov. Pete Ricketts, who advocates for gun rights and supports constitutional carry, which has been passed by 20 other states, including Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Such a move in Nebraska would rescind the current state law that requires state approval of a concealed carry permit, after a background check and completion of a gun safety course.
"There's good momentum for it right now," Brewer said. "And next year is an election year. We'll get a really clear up-and-down vote on the Second Amendment."
Last week, Brewer had to abandon his proposal because of an adverse legal opinion from the Nebraska Attorney General's Office. The AG's office said that allowing Nebraska counties to opt out of the requirement of obtaining a state concealed handgun permit, as Brewer's Legislative Bill 236 would have done, was an unconstitutional delegation of power over the issue from the state to local governments.
The AG's legal opinion prompted Brewer to gut LB 236, and replace it with three non-controversial measures dealing with firearms. The amended bill passed 47-0 on its second of three required votes.
Prior to the recent amendment, LB 236 would have applied to 90 of the state's 93 counties. The state's three largest counties — Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy Counties — were exempted from the bill because of opposition to constitutional carry in their counties, Brewer said.
He said other counties should have been allowed to decide for themselves if they wanted to allow permitless concealed carry for self-defense purposes.
Opposition to eliminating the state's current concealed handgun permit law is anticipated next year from urban areas. The Omaha Police Officers Association, the Omaha police union, has historically testified in favor of laws that require safety training and background checks before someone can carry a concealed weapon.
Allowing someone to carry a concealed gun without training or a background check is unnecessary and dangerous, according to Melody Vaccaro of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence.
"There is no evidence that we have a big crime problem or rising crime problem in Nebraska, and there is a lot of evidence that we have a firearm suicide problem," Vaccaro said. "We think (Sen. Brewer's) priorities are not in line with the public good."
Vaccaro added that the "sanctuary county" resolutions being signed across Nebraska are merely a reaffirmation of a county's intent to uphold the Constitution.
"It's not as radical as they make it out to be," she said.