Nebraskans can now carry concealed weapons without a permit under a new law signed by Governor Jim Pillen, upholding the right to bear arms enshrined in both the U.S. and Nebraska Constitutions.
The Legislative Bill 77 was signed into law at a press conference on Tuesday, following a week after it was passed by state lawmakers in a 33-14 vote after three rounds of debate. The bill, which will apply statewide, will take effect 90 days after the session ends, likely near the end of August or early September.
LB 77 will allow Nebraskans aged 21 and above to carry concealed weapons without a permit. However, people can still opt to obtain a permit if they desire, and it would not change who is allowed to purchase firearms in Nebraska, nor would it change where people are allowed to carry concealed weapons.
This law is referred to as “constitutional carry” by gun rights advocates, who believe that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides the right to carry concealed guns without a permit. Senator Tom Brewer of Gordon has been advocating for this measure since he took office in 2017 and thanked other lawmakers who supported his effort.
An amendment was folded into LB 77, adding an extra misdemeanor charge if someone carries a firearm while committing certain “dangerous misdemeanors,” including domestic assault, shoplifting, or stalking. It also made it a felony, on a third offense, for people to fail to notify a law enforcement official that they were carrying a weapon.
The amendment turned the Nebraska Sheriffs’ Association into being a supporter of the bill and changed the position of Omaha and Lincoln police unions and the Police Chiefs Association of Nebraska to neutral.
However, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins, along with Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert and a majority of Omaha City Council members, opposed LB 77. The bill stirred up controversy, with several protests from students and parents who largely argued that the legislation would make Nebraska less safe.
One of the protestors, Melody Vaccaro, was banned from entering the Capitol after she shouted “Shame” from the legislative balcony after LB 77 passed the final round of debate.
Pillen believes that this bill would be an early step in what he expects will be a “historic session,” even as several opposing lawmakers continue their effort to slow legislation down in protest to a separate bill intended to ban gender-affirming care for people under 19. While the bill has attracted some opposition, it is a necessary step towards ensuring the constitutional right to bear arms for Nebraskans.
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