Woman who shouted ‘shame’ following critical gun bill passage is banned from Nebraska Capitol

By: - April 19, 2023 4:34 pm

Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, joins students, State Sen. Jane Raybould of Lincolna and members of the community to discuss gun reforms on Thursday, March 16, 2023, in Lincoln. The groups called for action to prevent gun violence. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from the Nebraska State Patrol.

LINCOLN — A woman who protested the approval of “constitutional carry” in the state will no longer be allowed in the Nebraska State Capitol or its grounds, except in select circumstances.

Melody Vaccaro, executive director of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, shouted “Shame!” multiple times immediately after senators voted Wednesday to approve Legislative Bill 77, proposed by State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. The proposal, approved 33-14, is Brewer’s long-fought effort to remove permit and training requirements for concealed carry of a handgun.

A "banned and barred" letter given to Melody Vaccaro after shouting in the legislative balcony.
Melody Vaccaro received and signed this “banned and barred” notice Wednesday from the Nebraska State Patrol. (Courtesy of Melody Vaccaro)

Vaccaro told the Nebraska Examiner that she was asked to leave the Capitol, and that the Nebraska State Patrol served her with a “banned and barred” notice, restricting access except for “scheduled appointments.”

“I would understand when you make an outburst — spirit takes you and you make an outburst — of course, they’re going to escort you out and you’re going to have to leave,” Vaccaro said. “That seems pretty reasonable.”

But what followed was not reasonable, Vaccaro said, and she is “still reconciling” herself to the “banned and barred” notice. She said it takes away her First Amendment rights and restricts her access to legislative or other government proceedings.

She said other members of the public, who have openly carried AR-15s in the Capitol or threatened senators, have not been given similar restrictions.

The one-page notice from the State Patrol allows Vaccaro to schedule an appointment in order to go to the Capitol and does not list the reasons that led to the notice. 

Cody Thomas, public relations director for Nebraska State Patrol, said in a statement that about 75 observers were removed from the balcony at the request of Lt. Gov. Joe Kelly, president of the Legislature. Thomas said this was the first time in at least several years this has happened. Thomas said Vaccaro was removed pursuant to rules of the Nebraska State Capitol Building and described the “barred and banned” notice Vaccaro received as a trespassing warning.

Thomas said an appeals process for the “barred and banned” notice is outlined under Nebraska Administrative Code 272 Chapter 1. He said further guidance on the duration of the action, and the appeals process, will be communicated with Vaccaro directly.

The Patrol has the “primary responsibility” of security needs in the Capitol. 

State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon. (Zach Wendling/Nebraska Examiner)

Brewer told the Examiner that nobody in his seven years as a legislator has ever behaved in a similar manner from the balcony. He said Vaccaro’s outburst differs from visitors clapping or mumbling, which has happened this session. 

He said the public’s behavior is critical to the ability of the body to function, “and you may not like what we do, but it’s not your place to cause it to be disrupted.”

“I think that was appropriate,” he said of the “banned and barred” notice. “If you don’t do that, it degrades into a situation where you don’t have a Legislature anymore, you have kind of a madhouse. … I think you behave poorly, bad things happen.”

In the future, if Vaccaro wishes to go to the Capitol, she must coordinate with NSP Capitol Security Communications at least one day prior to make arrangements.

Unannounced visits would violate the order, amounting to second degree criminal trespass, a Class II or III misdemeanor, or failure to obey orders of the State Patrol, a Class III misdemeanor.

A Class III misdemeanor is punishable by up to three months in jail, a $500 fine, or both. Punishment for a Class II is up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Vaccaro said she had watched the two hours of allotted debate on LB 77. During the debate, fourth graders and other school-aged children were visiting the Capitol, coming and going from the chamber. This, she added, made her think about school shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee, and the rate of gun deaths for children.

“It’s so shameful,” Vaccaro said. “It’s so dark and morally corrupt, and I just was aghast.”

State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said on the floor that she does not approve of similar actions in the balcony, though she can understand “guttural reactions” to legislation.

“We have to remember that they’re human and that they’re Nebraskans,” Blood said. “And that’s not a direct threat.”

To Vaccaro, Wednesday’s actions follow a string of “silencing” Nebraskans this session, including limiting public testimony or how many questions senators may ask at hearings.

“I just think this is kind of the new norm that we’re under,” Vaccaro said. “This is the new Legislature, and I think it’s just going to get worse and worse and worse.”


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Zach Wendling
Zach Wendling

Zach Wendling is a senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, double-majoring in journalism and political science. He has interned for The Hill and The News Station in Washington, D.C., and has reported for the Nebraska News Service and The Daily Nebraskan.