Concealed weapons law has little impact

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Nebraska seems to be right on track when it comes to concealed weapons.

And, despite law enforcement's justified concerns, a concealed weapon ban was lifted in Omaha and doesn't seem likely to be imposed in Lincoln.

That leaves Kearney as the only city in the state prohibiting the carrying of a concealed weapon.

Only 19,500 people -- slightly more than 1 percent of the state's population -- are expected to apply for the permits, which will begin issuing the $100 permits after Jan. 1.

To do so, each of the applicants will have to visit the Nebraska State Patrol office in North Platte or one of the other five around the state. They'll also need to pass a training course -- private trainer certification and the curriculum they will use are still being developed -- and a criminal background check. The permits will have to be renewed every five years.

In Omaha, the mayor plans to keep lobbying council members to re-enact the ban, and in Lincoln, the police chief said he felt cheated when the City Council removed the concealed weapon ban from the agenda of a public hearing set for next week.

So, unless you're going to Kearney, you'll probably have the right to carry a concealed weapon, provided you've met the other requirements.

But don't plan on taking one to visit a jail, school, courthouse, church or bar, or any business or private property where the owner has barred concealed weapons.

But we expect Nebraska to be a lot like Ohio, where Lt. Reginald Eakins of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office told the Omaha World-Herald: "Everywhere you go, you have to leave it in the trunk. I think a lot of people have decided, "It's not worth it. Forget it."

Both sides have valid points -- the law should put guns only in the hands of law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves against criminals who already carry weapons.

And, regrettably, the argument could be made that having more weapons available increases the potential for violence.

In the end, Nebraska's concealed weapons bill has turned out to be simply a political exercise, pitting liberal elements against the National Rifle Association and others.

But comparing the level of violence in our society to places like Iraq or Lebanon, we can be grateful that's all it is.

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