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Gov. Ricketts designates Nebraska as 'sanctuary state' for gun rights
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Gov. Ricketts designates Nebraska as 'sanctuary state' for gun rights

LINCOLN — Doubling down on his pro-gun rights credentials, Gov. Pete Ricketts signed a symbolic proclamation Wednesday designating Nebraska as a “Second Amendment Sanctuary State.”

The proclamation comes as President Joe Biden recently announced a plan to address gun violence.

A growing number of Nebraska counties have adopted similar “sanctuary” resolutions. A bill also is pending in the Nebraska Legislature to allow counties to opt out of the state requirement that gun owners register and take a gun safety course to carry concealed weapons.

“The White House and U.S. Congress have announced their intention to pursue measures that would infringe on the right to keep and bear arms,” Ricketts stated in the proclamation. “Nebraska will stand up against federal overreach and attempts to regulate gun ownership and use in the Good Life.”

“Second Amendment sanctuary” refers to a declaration that a state, county or city will not enforce federal gun laws they consider to be too restrictive. At least four states, including neighboring Kansas and Wyoming, have declared themselves “sanctuary states.”

In Nebraska, at least 50 counties, including Buffalo, Hall, Platte and Gage Counties, have passed sanctuary resolutions in recent months, and similar measures are being considered in at least seven other counties, according to the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association.

Biden recently announced plans to ban the sale of so-called “ghost guns,” which are firearms that can be assembled with kits and cannot be traced by law enforcement. He’s also asked the Justice Department to draft model “red flag” laws that states could adopt. Red flag laws, like one enacted in Colorado, allow judges to order the confiscation of guns from someone who is exhibiting mental health issues or threatening behavior. The president also wants stepped-up community efforts to discourage gun violence.

Ricketts, who also spoke at National Rifle Association’s convention in 2018, has consistently opposed steps to impose stricter gun laws, saying that better mental health care and improved law enforcement are the keys to preventing mass shootings.

A representative of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence noted that the governor’s proclamation comes one day after Ricketts refused to offer “sanctuary” to unaccompanied migrant children who are showing up at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers.

“This decree is meant to placate those that are avid gun rights activists while shunning children that are seeking refuge,” often from gun violence, said Melody Vaccaro of the gun-control group. “Gun violence is a public health crisis and we support serious funding of research, proven community programming, and using a combination of education, policy, and accountability to reduce (it).”

Legislative Bill 236, introduced by State Sen. Tom Brewer of Gordon and prioritized by Sen. Robert Clements of Elmwood, would give counties the power to allow “permitless” carry of concealed firearms. Currently, gun owners must obtain a state permit and pass a firearm course before being allowing to carry a concealed gun.

LB 236 awaits first-round debate in the Legislature.

Another Nebraska gun rights proposal, LB 188 or the “Second Amendment Preservation Act,” would prohibit the State Patrol or local law enforcement officials from enforcing any new federal restrictions on firearms. That bill, which did not receive a priority designation, has not advanced from a legislative committee.


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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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