The real suspense over LB 77 isn’t whether or not it has the votes to pass or whether Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen will sign the constitutional carry legislation into law. Instead, with Democrats filibustering almost every piece of business in the Nebraska unicameral legislature, it’s about whether the bill will get a third and final reading before this year’s session comes to an end.
We’re one step closer after LB 77 cleared a second round of debate on Monday evening, several weeks after the bill received its first hearing in the Senate. The 33 senators who voted in support would be enough to override a veto by Pillen, but that won’t be necessary since the governor has already said he’s eager to sign the legislation into law. Still, opponents are doing all they can do slow down the process, and there were hours of debate before the Senate once again signaled its support for the measure.
“When is enough, enough?” asked State Sen. Jane Raybould of Lincoln, who argued that loosening state gun laws and rescinding local gun ordinances was exactly the opposite approach of what parents are now seeking.
“To dismiss and dismantle local safeguards that keep our communities safer is what we’re doing. It is completely illogical,” Raybould said.
Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer, who sponsored LB 77, said that to better protect schoolchildren, he plans to introduce a bill next year to provide resource officers in every school in the state. He added that he would also consider allowing trained teachers or school staff to carry guns.
His voice rose as he said the bill wasn’t about matters such as preventing suicides, racism and school shootings, but about guaranteeing the right to bear arms in Nebraska.
He read from the State Constitution, which provides the right to bear arms for “security or defense” … “and for lawful common defense” without those rights being denied or infringed by government.
“Evil will do evil,” Brewer said. He cited a recent incident in Lincoln in which a female driver killed two men by ramming them with her vehicle.
Those local ordinances, which include a weird gun registration mandate in the city of Omaha that requires all owners of “concealable handguns” who don’t possess a valid concealed carry license to register their handguns with the city, aren’t dissuading violent criminals from carrying out their armed robberies, carjackings, or gang-related shootings. Getting rid of that registration requirement is the right thing to do from both a constitutional and common sense perspective, and the Omaha police officers union isn’t opposed to LB 77, though the city’s politically-appointed police chief is still objecting to the measure.
Lincoln Police Chief Teresa Ewins, who was lobbying senators from the Rotunda, said LB 77 was “poorly written” and left too many gray areas, such as whether long guns, assault rifles and swords could continue to be banned from certain areas in the city.
Ewins, along with Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer, joined with their prospective city councils and mayors to oppose LB 77. They argued that Nebraska’s largest cities have different issues with guns than rural areas and that the Legislature should not rescind their local ordinances.
“It’s just not fair to our community, and it really risks the lives of my officers,” Ewins said.
If that were the case, you’d think the rank-and-file officers themselves would be standing behind Ewins in opposing the bill. Instead, they’re officially neutral on the measure, and I suspect that most officers are either in support of the change or see it having little impact on their day-to-day job.
As I said, the real question is when lawmakers will hold that crucial third and final vote on LB 77. The good news is that this year’s session is expected to run through mid-June, so there should be plenty of time for legislators to send the constitutional carry bill to Pillen for his signature, even with Democrats trying to filibuster almost every piece of legislation the Republican majority brings to the floor. So far there’s no word on when that third vote will be scheduled, but I doubt lawmakers are going to wait until the last minute. LB 77 has been one of the top priorities for the GOP majority this session, and though progress has been slower than they’d like it looks like it will make it across the finish line.