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Nebraska permitless carry measure stalls in Legislature

April 11, 2022 GMT

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A bill that would have allowed people in a majority of U.S. states to carry concealed handguns without a permit died Monday when Nebraska state lawmakers derailed the proposal after hearing concerns from law enforcement officials.

The bill would have made Nebraska the 26th state to adopt so-called constitutional carry legislation. Supporters in Nebraska fell two votes short of the 33-vote supermajority needed to overcome a filibuster led by opponents, which prevents lawmakers from advancing it this year.

Permitless concealed carry is already allowed in 25 conservative-leaning states. The Nebraska bill won initial approval last month but stalled Monday on the second of three required votes in the waning days of the legislative session.

“To say I’m frustrated is an understatement,” said Sen. Tom Brewer, the bill’s sponsor and a leading gun-rights advocate in the Legislature.

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Nebraska already allows gun owners to carry firearms in public view, as long as they aren’t in a place where it’s prohibited and don’t have a criminal record that bars them from possessing one. To legally conceal the gun, they’re required to submit to a Nebraska State Patrol background check, get fingerprinted and take a gun safety course at their own expense.

Supporters see the rules as an infringement on their constitutional right, and they’ve been willing to show up en masse in the past. In 2020, gun-rights activists flooded the Nebraska Capitol to protest a measure that would have imposed new restrictions on gun ownerships. Some advocates arrived with loaded, semi-automatic rifles, which they were legally allowed to carry, although some lawmakers said the demonstrated was designed to intimidate them.

The bill faced opposition from Lincoln police, and other law enforcement agencies were lukewarm.

Omaha police officials were initially opposed as well, but changed their position to “neutral” after supporters made changes to enhance criminal penalties for people who commit certain crimes with a gun in their possession. Earlier Monday, lawmakers voted down that compromise as well, throwing the fate of the bill into doubt.

Some opponents said their biggest sticking point in the bill was the push to eliminate mandatory training to obtain a concealed-carry permit.

Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln, said he would have been open to making the training free and eliminating gun-permit fees to reduce the barriers of getting a permit. But he argued that the training is an important safety requirement.

“I am very pro-Second Amendment,” said Morfeld, referring to the constitutional right to bear arms. “I also believe in common sense.”

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The vote came in the midst of a session that has thwarted many top conservative priorities in Nebraska, despite Republican dominance in the single-chamber, officially nonpartisan Legislature. Some consevative lawmakers complained Monday that the Legislature has failed to fulfill the wishes of most voters on the gun bill.

If Nebraska had a bicameral, partisan legislature like every other state, “we would have passed this in about 15 minutes,” said Sen. Steve Erdman, of Bayard. “That’s what the people want.”

Still, some lawmakers said the training requirement was too important to stop.

“We have to learn to drive a car because you could someone with a car,” said Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, of Omaha. “This shouldn’t be any different.”

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: http://twitter.com/GrantSchulte