Editorial Roundup: Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star. June 22, 2024.

Editorial: State should take action on regulating security guards

Multiple questions were raised when a security guard working at a downtown bar shot and killed Gregory Little Jr. on April 7. Some of those questions were answered when prosecutors said the guard did not commit a crime when he shot Little, who had reached for a handgun that had fallen from the guard’s vest.

Others, like how a bar could be open at 3 a.m., an hour after alcohol sales legally end, have been clarified. And the Royal Hookah Bar & Lounge has had its license suspended and been given a mandatory 1 a.m. closing time by the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

Raised in a story by Journal Star reporter Andrew Wegley, one of the most troubling queries remains unresolved.

That is, are security guards licensed on any level and can those guards legally carry concealed weapons without a permit?

The answers: no and yes. And both need to be reversed.

Nebraska requires formal training or a state occupational license to teach school, give body piercings, paint or cut nails and style hair. The same requirements hold for massage therapists, funeral directors and anyone working with asbestos.

But there are no regulations for private bouncers or security guards, who since September can carry concealed weapons without a permit.

The basic regulatory structure of Nebraska’s laws governing “private policing” — the closest thing the state has on the books to regulating private security guards — was imposed in 1959 and, as the hookah bar incident has sadly illustrated, needs to be updated and expanded.

That should be a priority for the Legislature’s Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee as it reviews the industry’s regulations as part of its regular five-year examination of occupational licensing.

Specifically, the definition of “private policing” should be expanded to explicitly include security guards and companies.

Those guards and companies should, like the other occupations under state purview, be required to have formal training in order to receive a license.

And, if, to choose one example, those who cut hair and nails with scissors need training, security guards who want to carry guns should have to undergo firearms training in order to be licensed.

That requirement shouldn’t be seen as a violation of Second Amendment rights. Nor, because it is limited to a specific occupation, would it be a return to requiring permits for concealed carry of handguns.

Regulations also should be propounded for security companies, requiring the companies who now operate in an unregulated “informal” fashion, to incorporate, certify training for all employees and post surety bonds, all requirements for such companies in multiple states.

It is regrettable that it took a man’s death bring attention to the issue of regulation and licensing of security guards and the operations of security companies.

But it should also serve as the impetus for change to ensure that security guards and the companies that hire them are equipped with the training and experience to make the public more secure.