FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—A conservative legal group was set to file lawsuits Monday against Nebraska’s two largest cities, arguing that they are defying a state law on gun rights.
The Liberty Justice Center is challenging gun restrictions enacted in Lincoln and Omaha, contending that the ordinances flout a state law passed earlier this year on permitless concealed carry–or constitutional carry–in the state.
The Liberty Justice Center represents the nonprofit Nebraska Firearms Owners Association.
“The state enacted a law for constitutional carry statewide with any local laws null and void,” Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “You don’t have to get into a Second Amendment argument for this case. The state has decided on the law.”
In April, the Nebraska Legislature passed a statewide constitutional carry bill and declared that regulating firearms is a statewide concern. The legislation also declared existing local firearm laws void and revoked local governments’ power to regulate guns.
However, the cities of Omaha and Lincoln enacted local ordinances and issued executive orders to restrict firearms from city property, which the firearms owners group says includes public parks and sidewalks.
The two municipalities appear prepared for a legal fight. City attorneys in Omaha and Lincoln reportedly argued that the state law, Legislative Bill 77, gives them the authority to regulate concealed handguns on city-controlled property.
The Nebraska Firearms Owners Association says it represents more than 10,000 gun owners in the state. The Liberty Justice Center gained notoriety for leading arguments in a Supreme Court case challenging compelled union membership.
The firearms association’s lawsuit against Lincoln was set to be filed Monday in District Court for the 3rd Judicial District in Lancaster County, Nebraska.
The lawsuit against Omaha was set to be filed Monday in District Court for the 4th Judicial District in Douglas County, Nebraska.
Huebert said the ordinances in the two Nebraska cities force Nebraskans to face an untenable choice: Either violate local laws or forfeit their right to bear arms.
State law currently designates certain government buildings as off-limits for guns. A municipal government shouldn’t be able to expand prohibitions to other public spaces, Huebert said.
“The state already said that people can’t carry firearms into courthouses or jails or other public buildings,” Huebert said.
City officials in Omaha and Lincoln did not immediately respond to inquiries by The Daily Signal regarding the issues involved.
In November, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert, a Republican, signed the ordinance banning possession of kits used to build home-assembled handguns. Stothert also signed two gun-related resolutions adopted by the Omaha City Council in response to the state law on permitless concealed carry.
One of the council resolutions supported the mayor’s executive order limiting concealed handgun possession on city-owned and city-leased land if official signs prohibit them. The other resolution, less controversial, called for voluntary training for gun owners.
Stothert said gun laws “further our ability to reduce crime and promote responsible gun ownership,” the Nebraska Examiner reported.
“They provide law enforcement with additional provisions to help keep our citizens safe,” the mayor said, according to the Examiner, adding: “We will pursue steps on gun safety while not infringing on the rights of responsible gun owners.”
Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer also supported the city’s gun control initiatives.
The state law, passed in April, went into effect in September.
That’s when Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird, a Democrat, signed an executive order stating that firearms and other weapons remain prohibited on city property, including buildings, libraries, and parks.
“Recognizing the epidemic of gun violence claiming innocent lives across our nation and that LB77 eliminates commonsense safety training for gun owners, I took action to safeguard city … employees and community members,” Gaylor Baird said in October, according to the Nebraska Examiner.
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