Laws, Penalties, and Defenses
Understanding Nebraska’s gun laws is tough. Handgun laws in Nebraska are a combination of state, local, and federal laws. As a result, the gun laws in Nebraska are a tangled web of prohibitions, exclusions, and exemptions.
Every person must educate themselves about Nebraska gun laws if they wish to possess a firearm lawfully. Otherwise, you could find yourself facing serious charges. You will need representation from a tough, aggressive, and experienced Nebraska gun possession defense attorney if you face gun charges in Nebraska.
Nebraska Firearms Laws
The right to possess a firearm in Nebraska stems from the state and federal constitutions. Article I, section I of the Nebraska constitution establishes the rights all people enjoy while living in the state. Additionally, Article I, Section I states that every person has the right to keep and bear arms.
Article I, section I of the Nebraska state constitution is much more specific than the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The drafters of Article I, section I, chose particular words to indicate why the right to bear arms is a right that the state must safeguard. The right is not absolute, however.
Gun laws in Nebraska place significant limitations on the right to bear arms. The state’s limitations balance the need to protect public safety while preserving the right to bear arms. As a result, Nebraska gun laws limit who can possess a firearm lawfully, how a person may carry a firearm, and where people can take their guns.
Who Can Possess a Gun in Nebraska?
Nebraska law is fairly straightforward as to who can and cannot possess a gun in the state. Any person who is 18 years of age can possess a firearm, provided that the person is not disqualified. However, when it comes to gun laws, Nebraska includes several critical components that make the law confusing.
What Is a Handgun?
The gun laws in Nebraska define a handgun as a firearm with a barrel shorter than 16 inches or a firearm with a design that allows the user to shoot with one hand. Handguns are subject to the strictest gun laws in Nebraska because handguns are small and easy to hide. Nebraska gun laws treat shotguns and rifles differently than handguns.
Open Carry vs. Concealed Carry
Any person who has the lawful ability to possess a handgun may carry “open” without a permit unless you are in a city that restricts open carry. Omaha municipal ordinances technically allow one to open carry if you complete a class. However, the only provider authorized to conduct the class no longer offers it creating a trap. One cannot complete the class and there is no legal way to open carry in Omaha.
Open carry means that a portion of the handgun remains visible and uncovered. Concealed carry means that the firearm is entirely hidden. A person who wishes to carry a concealed firearm lawfully may do so only if they have a concealed carry permit. A person may transport a handgun in a car without a permit, provided that the person meets the open carry standard. Otherwise, the person must have a concealed carry permit.
Unlawfully carrying a concealed firearm is a Class I misdemeanor under the handgun laws in Nebraska. A Class I misdemeanor carries a possible one-year jail term and a fine of no more than $1,000. However, a subsequent offense carries the possibility of facing a Class IV felony.
Some cities in Nebraska, such as Omaha, have local ordinances that require every person who possesses a gun in the city to have a concealed carry permit, even when state law does not.
Obtaining a Concealed Carry Permit
Anyone who wants to obtain a concealed carry permit must meet the statutory requirements. To obtain a concealed carry permit under Nebraska gun laws, the person must apply to the Nebraska state patrol and:
- Be at least 21 years old;
- Have a valid Nebraska driver license, valid Nebraska state ID, or valid military ID;
- Have permanent residency in Nebraska for at least 180 days;
- Remain eligible to possess or purchase a handgun under federal law;
- Have no felony conviction in Nebraska or any other jurisdiction;
- Pass a vision test;
- Take a firearms safety course;
- Have no conviction for a misdemeanor involving a violent act within the previous 10 years;
- Have no diagnosis of mental illness within the previous ten years;
- Have no prior gun or drug conviction within 10 years of applying for the concealed carry permit; and
- May not be on probation, work release, or parole for any crime.
Permits remain valid for five years. Additionally, a person carrying concealed must tell a police officer or emergency services personnel they have a concealed handgun. At that time, the person must produce a valid concealed carry permit and state ID. Failing to disclose is a crime and could lead to the revocation of your concealed carry permit.
Permits to Purchase a Firearm Under Nebraska Gun Laws
Additionally, any person who wants to buy, receive, or transfer a handgun must have the proper permit. The requirements to obtain a permit to purchase a firearm under the gun laws in Nebraska are similar to those to obtain a concealed carry permit. Buying a gun without a permit violates both Nebraska gun law and federal gun laws.
Penalties Under Nebraska Gun Law
Possession of a deadly weapon by a restricted person is a crime in Nebraska. A person arrested for possessing a firearm as a prohibited person faces a Class ID felony for the first offense. The offense becomes a Class IB felony for every second or subsequent offense.
Felony gun possession in Nebraska carries harsh prison terms. A Class ID felony carries a three-year mandatory minimum sentence and a 50-year maximum sentence. A Class IB felony carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Defenses to Charges Under Nebraska Gun Laws
Defenses to charges brought under the gun laws in Nebraska depend on the particular case. Whenever the state charges a person with a possessory crime, like carrying a concealed handgun without a permit, the lawfulness of police conduct must be examined closely.
A case could not proceed to trial if the police violated your constitutional rights when they seized a gun from you. Therefore, filing a motion to suppress can lead to a dismissal of the case if the police violated your right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The state always has the burden to prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Merely riding in a car or being present in a house where police seize a handgun does not mean you are automatically guilty. The state must offer evidence to connect you to the gun. Therefore, successful trial defenses often incorporate arguing that you were “merely present” when police found the gun. That means that you did not know the gun was there and had no intent to do anything with it.
Sometimes charges are hard to beat because the evidence is solid. In those circumstances, your best option might be to enter a plea bargain to a reduced charge. Pleading to a lesser charge may reduce your jail time or help you avoid jail altogether.
Call Tom Petersen for Help Fighting Charges Under Nebraska Gun Laws
Experienced Nebraska criminal defense attorney Tom Petersen recommends that you not speak to police if they arrest you for any crime. Instead, call an experienced Nebraska criminal defense lawyer with a reputation for obtaining positive results for their clients as Tom has for many of his clients.
Call Tom Petersen and his staff with Petersen Criminal Defense Law today at 402-509-8070 for a confidential case evaluation.
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