Shucking Out Freedom in Nebraska

A call for celebration brings us to the Midwest plains of the Cornhusker State. Nebraska is a state with flat, far-reaching farmland, tornadoes and now what could possibly be the next entry on the list of constitutional carry states. Shortly after Florida made the United States a majority constitutional carry country, Nebraska is inching closer to joining the list at No. 27.

On March 28, Nebraska lawmakers voted 31-10 in favor of LB 77, leaving only one more round of approval from the Legislature. Sen. Tom Brewer (R-Gordon), the bill’s sponsor, said during the debate that “it is giving people the ability to concealed carry without going through the permit process and paying for it.”

This bill is not the first of its kind in Nebraska, but it is the first one that is likely to pass and become law. Two Democrats, Sens. Justin Wayne (D-Omaha) and Terrell McKinney (D-Omaha), broke with their party and voted in favor of the bill, citing discriminatory practices in bigger cities, such as Omaha and Lincoln. LB 77 would nullify local ordinances in urban areas, having the same rules apply for everyone across the entire state. Brewer stated, “I think that’s essential because if you’re traveling through a particular town, you shouldn’t have to worry about being charged with a crime when you don’t even know it’s a crime.”

Brewer also argued during the debate that law-abiding Americans should not have to pay for their constitutional right to carry firearms. Currently, it costs an applicant $100 to obtain a state permit. Sen. Jane Raybould (D-Lincoln) opposes the bill, saying it would “normalize the proliferation of guns” and will “contribute to a rise in teen suicides and gun violence.” But advocates for the bill explained that a handgun certificate or a concealed carry permit and a background check will still be required for the purchase of a handgun.

‘AR’ You Serious, Washington?

The only good news that I can provide here is that, though Washington state has now banned “assault weapons,” the number of states that have passed constitutional carry have far, far exceeded unconstitutional bans on “scary” rifles. Sorry, that’s the best I have for you, and as far as Washington gun politics go, it isn’t going to get that good again.

There are currently nine states (and the District of Columbia) that have placed bans on the sale of semi-automatic rifles such as the AR and AK platforms. And on April 8, 2023, the state Senate passed HB 1240 on a 27-21 vote, all but solidifying Washington’s position of No. 10. It is no secret that Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has his pen in hand waiting for the bill to arrive on his desk, stating that “passing an assault weapon ban will be a momentous step forward for Washington state.”

The bill is sponsored by more than a dozen Democratic representatives, by the request of the Office of the Governor and Attorney General. HB 1240 effectively bans the sale, transfer, distribution, manufacture and importation of “assault-style” weapons, dubbed “military-grade” weapons by those in favor of the bill. Sen. Keith Wagoner (R-Sedro-Woolley), a retired U.S. Marine, said, “I know the difference between a weapon of war and a modern sporting rifle. The people who wrote this bill for the state of Washington don’t.”

The bill will ban more than 50 rifles on the market, including semi-automatic rifles shorter than 30 inches, those with detachable magazines or fixed magazines with a capacity of 10 rounds or more, and those with detachable magazines and equipped with flash suppressors or shrouded barrels.

The Wild West: Nevada

Nevada is famous for cities like Las Vegas and Reno, where you can gamble until the wee hours of the morning in the hopes of striking it big. But many forget how Nevada was once famous for the wild nature of its vast deserts, the mass migration of families to work in silver and gold mines, and the small towns built in remote areas by settlers looking to start new lives outside of big cities. The lawlessness of the Wild West would often find a man staring down the barrel of a Colt revolver and robbed of a brutal day’s work in the mines. Carrying a firearm was essential for safeguarding your family, your livelihood and your life.

Even now, it is not unusual to walk into a bar or grocery store in Nevada and see many individuals carrying firearms openly. In many small, remote desert towns, the citizens are considered peacekeepers due to the high firearm-to-citizen-ratio. However, as you head into larger cities like Las Vegas or Reno, the sentiment for more gun restrictions increases significantly. Five years after the deadliest rapid mass murder in U.S. history, during which a madman fired into a large crowd of concertgoers, Democratic lawmakers are looking to tighten gun laws in a state otherwise known for its freedom-loving culture.

AB 354 would ban the possession of any firearm within 100 yards of any polling place (including any ballot dropbox) and redefines the definition of frames and receivers. Some small towns are not much bigger than a football field, essentially making it illegal for citizens to carry firearms at all during an election.

AB 355 would make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun and would require such a firearm to be locked up.

SB 171 expands the category of prohibited persons to include those with certain misdemeanors.

These bills are currently being debated by the Judiciary Committees in both chambers. The Nevada Legislature is controlled by Democrats, leaving the fate of these bills in Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo’s hands. Lombardo has previously split with his Republican colleagues by supporting universal background checks. However, during his campaign, Lombardo promised he would veto any gun legislation that sought to ban so-called “ghost guns.”,

Can It, Connecticut

Connecticut sits snugly in the upper New England section of strict-gun-law states. In fact, Connecticut remains one of two states that still has “may-issue” laws on the books. While the Bruen verdict handed down by the Supreme Court essentially outlawed “may-issue” laws, Connecticut’s text regarding permit issuance circumvents the high court’s ruling. So, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Connecticut lawmakers are, once again, making it harder for law-abiding citizens to obtain and carry firearms.

In January of this year, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced new proposals to (in his words) “eliminate gun violence.” Because we all know how well criminals follow the rules, right? To be fair to Gov. Lamont, one proposal announced does sound more sensible than any of the others. That proposal would include an allocation of $2.5 million for “new statewide community gun violence intervention and prevention programs” that would “seek to stop cycles of violence through community-based, hospital-based and law enforcement-led strategies.” This initiative seeks to stop violent crime — gun-related or not — before it can begin. Credit where credit is due, but as with everything else that sounds like a good plan, we’ll see where the money actually goes and what actually happens.

However, that credit can only go so far. The following proposals would further restrict law-abiding Americans from protecting themselves:

  • Banning the open carrying of firearms in public and carrying of any kind in bars
  • Limiting handgun purchases to one per month
  • Updating the state’s ban on unregistered “ghost guns

Gov. Lamont justifies his proposal to limit handgun purchases for law-abiding citizens by saying it would discourage illegal straw purchases by criminals. The logic lost on this notion is the lack of realization that when criminals want to break the law, they will find a way to purchase firearms. The “ghost gun” proposal will also ban any such firearm manufactured before the legislation became law in 2019 (those grandfathered in).

Unarming Oregonians

We all celebrated when the United States judicial system kept Ballot Measure 114 from taking effect in Oregon. With the state’s roughly 50/50 split on the measure, the draconian gun-control laws looked as though they would not be implemented. This was a solid win for rural Oregonians and set a precedent for other states wishing to achieve a similar tactic. However, state lawmakers seek to circumvent the judicial system by passing laws with virtually the same rules as in Measure 114.

SB 348 is now moving through the Legislature after it was passed by the Senate committee on a 3-2 vote in early April.

So, what does SB 348 contain?

During the work session, Sen. Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer) asked if those who bought large-capacity magazines before Dec. 31, 2022 would be in danger of violating the new law. The answer will send firearms owners scouring their junk drawers for receipts, because you will now have to show proof of purchase — on a date set retroactively — to keep your magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

A permit to buy a gun will be required starting July 1, 2024, and requires the state police to do a full background check even after the purchaser submits to the required federal background check. A seller would also be prohibited from transferring the firearm until after a required 72-hour hold.

It will prohibit the manufacture, sale and possession of firearms without a serial number — what are commonly referred to as “ghost guns” — but also includes many firearms manufactured before the Gun Control Act of 1968.

And, according to State Rep. Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), it addresses “18-, 19- and 20-year-olds who are frustrated with the world and don’t know what else to do but communicate through violence” by prohibiting anyone under 21 from possessing firearms.

What may be the most shocking addition to this bill is the language addressed in Section 23 of the 69-page amendment: Any action challenging the legality, including the constitutionality, of this 2023 Act must be commenced in the Circuit Court for Marion County. Why would such an amendment be added like this? Opponents of the bill believe it is a way for this new law, should it be passed, to go unchallenged on its unconstitutionality. And if it is challenged, the Marion County Circuit Court would likely find in favor of the defendants — but I’ll leave that to your own interpretation.