Constitutional right or ‘nightmare scenario’? Nebraska senators debate concealed carry bill

LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Debate over permitless concealed carry began at the Nebraska State Capitol on Wednesday, and it’s expected to last the rest of the week.

Legislative Bill 77 would allow Nebraskans to carry a concealed handgun without a permit, while also removing other restrictions.

Supporters have been calling on as many people as possible to make sure they’re seen and heard by state senators this week.

That includes the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, which says board members will be in the balcony during all three days this debate is expected to last.

SEE ALSO: Gun debate after shooting at Omaha Target falls along familiar lines

Travis L. Couture-Lovelady, state director of the National Rifle Association, said owning guns is a right, not a privilege. He wants to add Nebraska to the 25 other states that allow permitless concealed carry.

“We believe you shouldn’t have to ask government permission, you shouldn’t have to pay government fees,” he said. “The time it takes to get the permit could be a matter of life and death for someone.”

The NRA said it’s been working for more than 30 years to pass such bills across the U.S.

SEE ALSO: Nebraskans split on bill that would allow concealed carry without permit

Both the Omaha and Lincoln police departments still oppose the bill.

The bill’s author, Sen. Tom Brewer, said he’s been working on versions of this bill for years and has talked with police to try to make it more agreeable to them.

“The law we have on the books right now says that it is a crime for you to put a jacket on if you have a firearm,” he said. “So you have to visualize this: You can open carry, and you’re legal; you put the coat on, you’re illegal.”

SEE ALSO: ‘It’s kind of like having a parachute’: Nebraskans voice opinion on concealed carry bill

Last week, the Nebraska Examiner reported that the Omaha Police Officers Association changed from opposing the bill to being neutral after new amendments were added.

The amendments would increase penalties for any prohibited person caught carrying a concealed gun who doesn’t immediately tell officers they have a weapon.

It would also allow penalties to be enhanced in cases involving domestic violence and resisting arrest, if a concealed gun is involved.

SEE ALSO: Bill to allow concealed carry without a permit returns to Nebraska Legislature

During the debate, senators fell along familiar lines, with many standing by their previous positions.

“I know at the end of the day, if a grown man comes up behind me and attacks me or comes up to me and attacks me in a parking garage, attacks me on the street, nine times out of 10, I’m gonna lose that fight,” Sen. Julie Slama said. “So, I made the decision to save up money and skip meals so I could save money for my concealed handgun permit.”

Sen. Jane Raybould led the opposition of the bill, arguing against what she says are gun myths.

“Over 80% of gun owners and non-gun owners – Republicans, Democrats, and independents – agree that high safety standards are critical in issuing concealed carry permits.”

She said owning a gun puts you at higher risk of gun violence. In homes with a history of domestic violence, she said, it increases the chances of a woman being killed by 500%.

“This is a time when we have two or more mass shootings a day, when gun deaths are now the leading cause of death to our children,” she said.

SEE ALSO: Nebraska senator thinks permitless concealed carry will pass this legislative session

Sen. George Dungan agreed and said more people with concealed guns makes communities more dangerous.

He said law enforcement officers have expressed concerns that not only will they be less safe, but that the people they are trained to protect are less safe.

“Imagine you are in some active shooter situation and law enforcement shows up to neutralize the situation and rather than one person with a gun, there’s three or four all firing at each other,” he said. “That’s my nightmare scenario.”

He said it doesn’t matter if you’re a “good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun” because police may not be able to tell the difference when making split-second decisions.

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