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Hilgers on New Gun Law

One of the major pieces of legislation that Nebraska State Senators passed this year was LB77, a bill which prevents cities, towns and villages from putting gun restrictions on citizens who care to arm themselves without a conceal-carry permit. As soon as the law went into effect on September 1, both mayors of the cities of Lincoln and Omaha enacted their own executive orders reinstating their city's gun free zones in public buildings, city parks, sidewalks, hiking trails, and parking lots. Their executive orders essentially nullified the effect of the bill.

Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon, the primary sponsor of the bill, asked for an opinion about the new law from the Nebraska State Attorney General, Mike Hilgers. Specifically, Sen. Brewer asked if existing laws were sufficient to prevent cities, towns and villages from further regulating the carrying of firearms in public places, such as parks, parking lots, sidewalks, and hiking trails. Hilgers responded by saying that no further legislation would be needed. However, the State Attorney General's opinion conflicts with the opinion of the mayors of our State's two largest cites, who believe they are operating within the confines of the law.

Last week the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association filed lawsuits against the cities of Lincoln and Omaha challenging the executive orders of these two mayors. According to the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, the executive orders of the two mayors violate Article 1 of the Nebraska State Constitution, the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, and the new state law. I believe they are correct and that they will win in court.

Last year in a landmark decision the U.S. Supreme Court changed the way that courts should view gun laws. What is now known as the Bruen decision altered the standard used in lower courts for evaluating gun laws. The high court said that judges should follow the "nation's historical tradition" regarding the Second Amendment. That means that any decision by the court should cohere with the original intent of the Second Amendment. That decision by the high court is now affecting how lower courts rule.

So, on December 20th a U.S. District Court Judge, Cormac Carney, blocked a law that would have prohibited the carrying of guns in public places in the State of California come January 1. Carney wrote in his preliminary injunction that the new California law, " repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court." He said the new law would "unconstitutionally deprive conceal carry permit holders of their constitutional right to carry a handgun for self-defense." The executive orders written by Lincoln Mayor, Leirion Gaylor Baird, and Omaha Mayor, Jean Stothert, would seem to do the same thing as the California law and be subject to a similar kind of ruling by the courts.

Federal laws already ban the carrying of firearms in certain sensitive places, such as airports, military installations, and federal buildings. Moreover, Nebraska State law prohibits the carrying of concealed weapons in sheriff and police stations, prisons and jails, courtrooms and polling places, and hospitals, just to name a few. So, prohibiting the carrying of guns in public parks, in parking lots, on sidewalks, and on hiking trails by way of executive order circumvents state law, ignores the intent of LB77, and defies the new precedent set last year by our nation's highest court.

What the two mayors have done is nothing short of anti-gun activism. These kinds of executive orders punish law-abiding citizens, but do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. Executive orders like these only leave law abiding citizens unarmed, vulnerable, and helpless in the event of an armed conflict. Article 1, Section 1 of the Nebraska State Constitution guarantees to the citizens of Nebraska the right to bear arms for the purpose of "security or defense of self, family, home, and others." The intention of LB77 was to restore and to secure that right. Happy New Year!


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