Weapons Bill Approved

Nebraska lawmakers approved a measure Thursday to allow Nebraskans to carry concealed weapons, which will make it the 48th state to allow people to pack hidden guns in some fashion.

The vote signaled the end of a 10-year effort to pass such a measure in Nebraska.

Governor Dave Heineman has said he would sign the measure into law. When he does, 40 states will have so-called "right to carry" laws, according to the National Rifle Association. Eight have limited concealed-weapons laws. Illinois and Wisconsin do not allow concealed weapons.

The measure sponsored by Senator Jeanne Combs of Milligan, a member of the National Rifle Association.

"It's just been a long haul," she said. "A majority of Nebraska has spoken. It's time to move on to the other important issues we have."

Like she did during the first two rounds of debate, Combs had to ask colleagues to vote to end filibusters being led by Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers.

Chambers said now that the bill had passed, he didn't see any way to stop it from becoming law.

"It's done now," Chambers said.

Chambers said he took solace in the fact that Omaha has a law banning the carrying of concealed weapons and the bill will not supersede that. The measure also allows any other municipality to pass a ban.

Former Senator Gene Tyson of Norfolk introduced a similar measure in 2003. It was advanced to second-round debate but never returned to the agenda -- later dying because of a rule that gives legislation a two-year shelf life to be passed.

A concealed-weapons measure was first introduced in 1996, but the 2003 vote marked the first time the bill had advanced in the Legislature since 1998. The bill that year cleared one of three rounds of debate before time ran out.

Supporters argue that being able to carry concealed weapons is a constitutional right. And they say the bill would merely put guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves against bad guys who already carry weapons.

Opponents argue that allowing concealed weapons would lead only to the potential for more violence.

The issue is one of personal liberty, Combs said. Those who want to carry a gun can, but those who don't, won't, she said.

The bill requires applicants for a concealed-weapon permit to pass a background check and complete a handgun training and safety course. The permit will cost $100 and be valid for five years. Convicted felons will not be allowed permits.

Concealed weapons will not be allowed in a variety of places, including bars, police stations, public meetings, athletic events, schools, churches, hospitals and banks. Signs also could be posted prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in other locations.

It is estimated that licenses could be granted to more than 64,000 people in Nebraska.

The Vote
The measure needed 25 votes to pass. A "yes" vote was to pass the bill. A "no" vote was against passing the bill

Senators voting yes: (33)
Aguilar, R., Grand Island; Baker, T., Trenton; Bourne, P. Omaha; Brashear, K., Omaha; Burling, C., Kenesaw; Byars, D., Beatrice; Combs, J., Milligan; Connealy, M., Decatur; Cornett, A., Bellevue; Cudaback, J., Riverdale; Cunningham, D., Wausa; Engel, P., South Sioux City; Erdman, P., Bayard; Fischer, D., Valentine; Flood, M., Norfolk; Foley, M., Lincoln; Friend, M., Omaha; Heidemann, L., Elk Creek; Hudkins, C., Malcolm; Janssen, R., Nickerson; Jensen, J., Omaha; Kremer, B., Aurora; Langemeier, C., Schuyler; Louden, L., Ellsworth; McDonald, V., St. Paul; Pahls, R., Omaha; Pedersen, Dw., Elkhorn; Pederson, D., North Platte; Redfield, P., Omaha; Schrock, E., Elm Creek; Smith, A., Gering; Stuhr, E., Bradshaw; Wehrbein, Roger R., Plattsmouth.

Senators voting no: (12)
Beutler, C, Lincoln; Brown, P., Omaha; Chambers, E., Omaha; Howard, G., Omaha; Johnson, J., Kearney; Kruse, L. Omaha; Landis, D., Lincoln; Mines, M., Blair; Price, M., Lincoln; Raikes, R., Lincoln; Schimek, D., Lincoln; Thompson, N., Papillion.

Present, not voting: (3)
Preister, D., Omaha; Stuthman, A., Platte Center; Synowiecki, J., Omaha.

Excused: (1)
Kopplin, G., Gretna.

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