LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska inched closer Friday to allowing gun owners to carry concealed firearms without a permit, background check or special training, as more than 20 other conservative states already have done.
Lawmakers gave the measure initial approval on a 35-9 vote after overcoming a filibuster from opponents who echoed law enforcement agencies’ public safety concerns. Two more votes are required before it goes to Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts.
The vote came one day after Alabama became the 22nd state to pass such a law. At least three other states have measures pending. Nebraska already allows legal gun owners to carry their weapons in the open in most public places.
Sen. Tom Brewer, of Gordon, said the bill acknowledges the constitutional rights of legal gun owners who want to carry their weapon without displaying it. Supporters refer to the measure as “constitutional carry,” in reference to the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.
“We don’t need to see good people run up on charges because they simply want to carry a gun concealed,” Brewer said.
Opponents objected to portions of the bill that would abolish mandatory safety training and background checks. Law enforcement agencies including Lincoln police have said the permits help combat crime and enhance public safety, and Omaha police have voiced concerns despite being officially neutral.
Some lawmakers also objected to a proposed compromise that would increase penalties for people committing crimes while carrying a hidden gun.
“While this is called ‘constitutional carry,’ it should really be called the training-less and permit-less concealed carry law,” said Sen. Adam Morfeld, of Lincoln.
Debate in the Legislature turned heated and bitterly personal. Brewer railed against “an orchestrated attempt to kill this bill by those who are anti-Second Amendment,” and warned that the filibuster would come back to haunt state lawmakers who are running for other offices.
Another lawmaker, Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, of Lincoln, said the argument could easily be flipped.
“I can just as easily say that if you vote (to stop the filibuster), you don’t support Nebraska law enforcement,” she said.
Pansing Brooks also chastised fellow lawmakers for their infighting and said the senators overseeing the debate should have stopped it.
“As a mom, I want to send everybody to their rooms,” she said.
Sen. Steve Lathrop, who served from 2007 to 2015, then returned in 2019, said the Legislature had became nastier, with more personal squabbles and “choreographed” debates.
Lathrop, of Omaha, said he decided not to run again this year because “everything’s decided before it gets to the floor” and lawmakers routinely lie to each other. He said the Legislature’s culture has become less respectful, a reflection of term limits and polarization nationally.
“Your responsibility is to this place, to its culture, and it’s gone to hell,” he said to lawmakers.
Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte