Brewer’s Constitutional Carry Bill Wins First Round Approval 36-12

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     Gordon Senator Tom Brewer’s constitutional carry bill allowing people in Nebraska to carry concealed guns without a permit or taking a gun safety course has advanced to second round debate. HB-77 passed 36-12 after a cloture vote ended debate at 8 hours spread over 3 days.

    Brewer has introduced similar measures every year since joining the legislature in 2017, arguing that law-abiding Nebraskans should not have to pay $100 for a state concealed carry permit and $100-$200 for a training course to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms.

     Nebraska already allows gun owners to carry firearms in public view, as long as they don’t have a criminal record that bars them from possessing one and aren’t in a place – such as churches, courthouses and private businesses – where guns are prohibited. 

     HB 77 is opposed by Omaha and Lincoln, where the majority of gun violence occurs, and their police chiefs, who have said the measure will make their cities less safe.

    While it leaves in place the federal requirement for a background check to buy a gun, it overrides stricter gun laws in some cities, including in Omaha – which requires a conceal carry permit for anyone with a gun in a car – even if the gun is in open view.

     The Omaha law led the legislature’s only 2 Black lawmakers, Democrats Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney, to support Brewer’s bill. They cited racial disparity in enforcing gun laws in their districts.

      Wayne said young Blacks in Omaha are often charged with gun possession violations when a gun that’s not theirs is found in a car they’re riding in, a practice known in law enforcement circles as “bumping up.” 

     Wayne said “When they’re talking about bumping up kids in Omaha, they’re not talking about kids in Bennington,” an overwhelmingly white Omaha suburb, (and) “they’re not talking about kids in western Nebraska.”

     McKinney said early gun control laws in the U-S were “out of fear of Black people,” adding “I’m not going to sit here and not try to fight for my community, the police don’t care about Black people.”

      Brewer, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and Nebraska’s only Native American lawmaker, backed McKinney’s comments, citing colonial American laws that criminalized arming Native Americans. 

      Brewer’s bill must be approved 2 more times and opponents can filibuster up to 8 hours on both rounds before supporters can force a cloture vote to end debate and force a vote on the bill itself.

    Most bills need 33 votes to pass and there are currently 17 Democratic lawmakers in the officially nonpartisan Unicameral, enough to successfully filibuster most bills if they all vote together, but 4 Democrats voted for Brewer’s bill. 

     Joining Wayne and McKinney were fellow Omaha Senat Mike McDonnell, a former Omaha firefighter union president who switched to supporting the bill after the Omaha police union pulled its objection, and Lynne Walz of Fremont, who abstained.

     A spokesperson for Republican Governor Jim Pillen said after the vote that Pillen supports the bill and would sign it into law if it passes. That would make Nebraska the 26th state with such a law.