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Ricketts urges Nebraskans to be 'thoughtful' about bringing guns to Capitol protests

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District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser is seeking increased security around President-elect Joe Biden’s January 20 inauguration in the wake of the mob insurrection at the Capitol.

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts said Tuesday that he does not support bans on the open carrying of firearms in the State Capitol but advised people to be “thoughtful” about bringing guns to Capitol protests.

Ricketts, a staunch supporter of 2nd Amendment rights, was asked several questions during his press conference about precautions being taken in anticipation of protests — including protesters carrying weapons — that are being planned at State Capitols across the country for this weekend, and possibly Inauguration Day, Jan. 20.

The governor said he has talked with the Nebraska State Patrol and the Nebraska National Guard about “taking appropriate precautions” but declined to specify what steps are being planned.

“Frankly, with regard to security matters, we don’t really get into those things,” Ricketts said. “The Capitol will be open to the public, and we will be taking additional precautions. But we’re not going to get into details about those.”

Michigan recently banned firearms from its State Capitol in anticipation of rallies planned Sunday and Jan. 20 to protest President Donald Trump’s election loss. The National Guard has been mobilized in Washington state.

Some Nebraska state senators have called for a gun ban at the Capitol here, but no proposals to change the rules that allow firearms in hearing rooms and on the floor of the Legislature were made by Monday, which was the deadline for rule changes.

That call was prompted after a throng of gun-rights advocates filled the hallways of the State Capitol a year ago to testify at a hearing. Two men, one wearing a bulletproof vest and a helmet, openly carried semiautomatic rifles.

When asked about his opinion of what was done in Michigan, Ricketts said that open carry of firearms is allowed in Nebraska and that he supports gun rights.

But he added, “Everyone should remember that we have a pandemic going on, to protest peacefully, and also be thoughtful that there are people who are nervous when you bring your guns out. So be thoughtful about that as well.”

A week ago, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest the results of the election. Dozens forced their way into the Capitol, ransacking the building and killing one Capitol Police officer.

One protester was shot and killed, and three protesters died of medical emergencies. At the same time, a small group of protesters — also objecting to the election defeat of Trump — gathered outside the Nebraska State Capitol without incident.

“If you look at the track record at the Capitol building, it’s always been a safe place to come,” Ricketts said.

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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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