Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. September 16, 2023.

Editorial: Concealed carry doesn’t simplify gun laws across state

For the past two weeks, Nebraskans have been able to carry concealed weapons without a permit, background check, firearms safety training or any other regulations.

The so-called “constitutional carry” was approved by a 33-14 filibuster-proof majority of the Legislature in April, over the opposition of Lincoln and Omaha city officials and law enforcement.

But, if concealed carry was aimed at simplifying gun laws statewide, anywhere and everywhere, it has failed.

After actions by Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and the Lincoln-Lancaster Public Building Commission, firearms, Tasers, knives with blades longer than 3.5 inches, and other items “intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury,” are banned from city buildings, including Pinnacle Bank Arena, public libraries and parks. Similar measures were also enacted in Omaha.

State law bars firearms inside banks, at pro or semi-pro sporting events, at public and private schools and school sporting events, on public and private college and university campuses, churches and hospitals and prohibits gun owners from carrying firearms into law enforcement offices, jails and prisons, courthouses and meeting places for any public governing bodies.

And, importantly, Nebraskans still can’t carry guns into bars, liquor stores or any other business that generates more than half its income from the sale of alcohol, e.g. most restaurants with liquor licenses.

The new measure also bars residents from carrying concealed guns while or immediately after consuming drugs or alcohol — a provision that, no matter how laudable, will be very difficult to enforce.

Private businesses also can bar firearms, and several in Lincoln have long done so.

All of those measures combine to limit the areas where concealed weapons can be carried. But they do nothing to deal with firearms issues in vehicles, parked or on the roads, and gun safety in homes, which were covered by the city ordinances the state wiped out with the passage of the bill.

The Journal Star editorial board has long opposed easing concealed carry laws and believes that the new law has made Nebraska and Lincoln marginally less safe.

In reality, at least 99% of the “bad guys” who carried a handgun to commit a serious crime before this month didn’t get a permit. And, in the past two weeks, there have been no widely reported incidents stemming from a concealed firearm.

But, we fear, it’s only a matter of time before someone carrying a concealed handgun accidentally shoots themselves, someone else or puts a hole in the floor or wall of a business or has a confrontation with law enforcement where the hidden weaponry — or the possibility of it — comes into play.

Some of that could be mitigated to some degree by the state requiring or at least urging handgun safety training for gun owners, and offering that training free of charge.

The cost of that training would be a small price for the state to pay for allowing the hidden handguns with no regulation throughout Nebraska.