Seasoned Nebraska sheriffs share mixed feelings about new gun laws

Nebraska LB 77 is set to take effect Saturday
Seasoned Sheriffs across Nebraska shared some differing thoughts on the state's new gun law, LB 77.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 10:36 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Starting on Saturday, anyone who is legally able to purchase and own a handgun in the state of Nebraska, will be able to conceal it in their clothing or their car without a permit, and without a safety training course.

Law enforcement agencies like Omaha Police and Lincoln Police have shared their opposition to Nebraska LB 77, while the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office remained neutral on the issue.

As the effective date inches closer, more agencies are sharing their pros and cons of the law with 6 News.

“It doesn’t matter whether we have a permit process or not, those folks who are going to violate the law are going to violate the law and that’s really the way it is,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner.

Lancaster County is the second most populated county in the state, but based on conversations Wagner has had with agencies in states where constitutional carry is already legal, he said he doesn’t believe it will be a problem for the county or the state.

“It really goes back to the old adage of those people who obey the law are not the ones we need to worry about, it’s the folks who don’t obey the law and other things, are not going to obey the laws with regards to carrying weapons,” Wagner said.

While he doesn’t believe the new law will have major negative impacts, he would still like to see required training courses.

“You can go buy a gun today if you’re legally able to do so and own it and not be legally required to have training on that weapon, I think you should,” Wagner said. “That’s probably one of the parts of the bill I don’t care for, I wish it required people to have a training session but the fact of the matter is it really is not required now if you don’t have a carry conceal permit, if you open carry or just go out hunting, you don’t need a training session to do that.”

Sheriff Mike Unger of Stanton County agrees.

“I personally would like to see some kind of a requirement where there’s at least training, so anyone carrying a firearm, especially a concealed handgun, at least knows how to use it,” Unger said. “I honestly probably will carry a firearm concealed more often now, just because I do believe there will be more of them out there, and I do think there’s a propensity for some incidents to happen that wouldn’t have when you did have the extra requirement for a concealed permit.”

Unger said he’s still on the fence about the law and can see the pros and cons. He recognizes that impacts will be different in his county of 6,000 people as compared to big cities in the state.

“In this area, I don’t really see it creating problems, but I do have concerns for the metropolitan areas especially for the officers that are working that. I think it’s going to be more difficult for them.”

Unger shares his frustrations about state lawmakers, too.

“I don’t see the need for this, I really felt that we were covered with what we had, and I’m a big firm supporter of the 2nd Amendment. It’s got nothing to do with the right to carry firearms or possess them, but I just felt that the legislature passed this as a feel-good law, kind like, you know I’ll say it, they passed the helmet law and other laws that really are nothing more than feel-good laws and expected the law enforcement to take the brunt of the enforcement which is difficult.”

Both Wagner and Unger say with the changes, law enforcement agencies need to make a mental shift, too.

“The main thing we’re telling the deputies are, you just need to assume that everybody you stop in a vehicle, probably has a weapon in there,” Wagner said.

“There is nothing routine about this job to begin with, so we’re going to have to take the philosophy that everybody is potentially armed, treat that accordingly but still use the proper tact and training to get through those issues,” Unger adds.

When it comes to those who may be worried about being in public spaces and not know who is armed and who isn’t, Wagner said they shouldn’t be concerned.

“I think they should be thankful that if something bad happens in the store they’re at, that there are probably people in there that are armed and willing to take action, and even if they are not, they need to be thankful that there are people that are.”

Constitutional carry will take effect in Nebraska on Sept. 2.