LINCOLN — As threats against politicians mount, a Nebraska group is calling for approval of a ban on open carry of firearms at the Nebraska State Capitol.
Last week, Nebraskans Against Gun Violence participated in legislative hearings in support of a rule change that would ban the open carrying of guns and other weapons at the Nebraska Capitol.
“In an era of increased political violence, both threats and actions, we are asking the Legislature to protect the Nebraska government from harm,” said Melody Vaccaro, the group’s executive director. “Weapons, including firearms, do not belong to political establishments.”
State Sen. Makayla Kavanaugh of Omaha, who proposed the change, told the legislature’s rules committee she was “terrified” in 2020 when two men carried semiautomatic assault rifles openly at the Capitol.
The incident came as a legislative committee, including Kavanaugh, was holding public hearings on a bill aimed at reducing gun suicides.
Concealed weapons are prohibited in state capitols because the state supreme and appellate courts have courtrooms in the buildings (concealed weapons are prohibited in court buildings).
But Nebraska allows anyone 18 and older to openly carry a gun unless prohibited by local government. Some areas, such as schools, prohibit open carry, according to the Concealed Carry Association of America.
Ricketts opposes Capitol ban
After the events of 2020, there were calls to ban the open carrying of firearms, but nothing came of it.
At that time, the government at that time. Gun rights advocate Pete Ricketts, citing the Second Amendment, said he opposed any restrictions on carrying firearms. In a Facebook post, Ricketts also thanked gun rights advocates who had gathered in the corridors of the Capitol to oppose the suicide prevention bill.
Under Kavanaugh’s proposed rule change, only law enforcement and military personnel would be allowed to openly carry firearms at the state capitol. At Thursday’s rules committee meeting, she pointed out that carrying signs into legislative hearings is prohibited, so why can’t guns be carried?
But others at the hearing opposed the gun ban, saying it violated the U.S. Constitution.
A man who said he openly carried a handgun during his testimony Thursday said some mass shootings have been thwarted by armed citizens.
Threats and intimidation against policymakers are on the rise in the United States, Vaccaro said.
Threats investigated by the US Capitol Police rose from about 900 in 2016 to almost 10,000 in 2020, according to The Guardian. A recent study by the University of California, Davis, found that 20 percent of respondents believe that political violence is “sometimes” justified.
34 states have banned guns in the Capitol
Additionally, a recent poll by the Brennan Center for Justice found that one in six election officials has been threatened because of their work. More than three-quarters of respondents said they believed threats against politicians had increased in recent years.
Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have banned gun possession in state capitols, according to a 2021 report from the Council of State Governments.
Nebraska and Louisiana are the only states that allow open carry of firearms but ban concealed carry, the report said.
Rules Committee Chairman Bayard Sen. Steve Erdman said the committee will meet at its executive session Tuesday afternoon to decide which of more than 50 proposed rule changes to bring to the full Legislature for debate.