State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon (Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)
LINCOLN — On a day loaded with bill introductions, none packed more heat than Nebraska State Sen. Tom Brewer’s simplified new attempt to allow concealed carry of a handgun without a permit.
Brewer, of Gordon, said Thursday that the more conservative bent of new GOP members in the Legislature, including some who replaced political moderates, gives his Legislative Bill 77 a better chance.
He expects continued opposition from the police unions in Omaha and Lincoln, who expressed concerns last year about the bill’s impact on law enforcement and officer safety.
Others opposed Brewer’s previous bill because, like this one, it removed the requirement that a person must receive state-approved training before carrying a concealed firearm.
That bill fell two votes short last year of overcoming a Democratic-led filibuster, even though Brewer tried to appease the police unions’ concerns.
This time, Brewer said, he’s offering a simpler, less complicated bill..
“We kept the bill clean,” Brewer said. “Amendments last year confused folks. There were some who didn’t know where to be and either sat on the fence, didn’t commit or voted against it.”
Brewer said he and his staff have worked with judges since then to clean up the bill. He continues to speak with law enforcement officers across Nebraska about it, but he expects a fight with the city unions.
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do to get them there,” Brewer said. “But if Missouri can do it and Kansas City and St. Louis do fine, what is unique about Lincoln or Omaha?”
Sgt. Anthony Conner of the Omaha Police Officers Association said the union was still reviewing the new bill “through the lenses of public safety and officer safety.”
He said it was premature for the union to take an official position for or against this bill until leaders have spoken with the “experts in Omaha that fight to curb violent gangs.”
At least 25 other states have passed similar bills. They, too, eliminated the requirement for a permit and training to carry a concealed handgun.
Brewer’s bill would override local ordinances restricting how and where people can carry weapons. And it would avoid the current criminal background check during the permitting process.
Local advocates against gun violence say they are ready to confront Brewer’s bill with facts that show higher rates of injury and death in states with permitless concealed carry.
Melody Vaccaro of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence said she hopes Brewer wants to make the comparisons he and other supporters made last year with Missouri, Idaho and Montana.
“They have some of the worst gun violence rates in the country,” she said. “It turns out when people have guns everywhere they go, lives end, whether through homicide, accident or suicide.”
She said state lawmakers need to consider the risks of increased gun violence, particularly to vulnerable populations already coping with disproportionate levels of gun violence.
Gun-rights advocates, including Brewer, argued last year that giving more law-abiding people legal access to guns would make more criminals think twice about committing violent crimes.
The bill would leave in place some restrictions on where people can carry concealed firearms, including courthouses, sheriff’s offices and schools, with some exceptions for security staff.
It would override local ordinances restricting how and where people can carry weapons. And it would avoid the current criminal background check during the permitting process.
It would also leave in place the state’s existing concealed carry permitting structure for people who want to seek a permit so they can carry a concealed weapon in a state that reciprocates.
His bill has 25 co-sponsors.
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