A legal opinion, as well as political reality, forced the dropping of a proposal Wednesday night to allow most Nebraska counties to authorize concealed carry of handguns without a state-required permit and safety course.
The so-called “constitutional carry” proposal was deemed constitutionally suspect by the Nebraska Attorney General’s office Monday. That forced the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, to drop the idea for this year and amend the bill to include three less-controversial gun rights measures.
“Be careful what you ask for,” said Brewer, in lamenting the last-minute legal dart that deflated chances for LB236.
The bill, as advanced to debate by senators, would have allowed 90 of the state’s 93 counties to opt out of the state’s concealed handgun law, which requires registration with a law enforcement agency and completion of a firearm safety course.
The state’s three largest counties — Douglas, Lancaster and Sarpy — were exempted from the bill because they opposed the idea.
But Attorney General Doug Peterson’s office, in its legal opinion Monday, said the bill raised “significant constitutional concerns” by improperly delegating a state decision to counties. The opinion also said the bill failed to provide adequate standards to guide county boards.
Brewer said it was too late to amend LB236 to make constitutional carry happen statewide, which was one option offered by the Attorney General’s Office to get around the constitutional concerns. Brewer also expressed some doubt that such a proposal could pass.
So, the bill was amended to contain three more minor measures. They would require a postcard warning when a concealed-carry permit is about to expire, provide a 30-day “grace” period after expiration to renew and make it legal to transport an unloaded firearm, separated from ammunition, in a factory box or gun case.
The amended bill, with the constitutional carry provision removed, advanced from first-round debate on a 47-0 vote.