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Pete Ricketts To Senators: A Security Detail For Me But Not For Thee!

Two self styled gun rights activists recently showed up at the State Capitol to testify against Senator Adam Morfeld’s red flag bill while brandishing loaded military assault weapons. One of these individuals even testified in front of the Judiciary Committee wielding his AK-47 military rifle. Most people were surprised to learn that people are allowed to openly carry a fire arm in the State Capitol Building.

This raised some disturbing questions. How does one distinguish between a good guy with a gun and a mass murderer? How can somebody tell if an individual carrying a loaded weapon of war is a gun rights activist or an evildoer? (The gun manufacturers lobby and its allies have never answered these questions.) These two so-called gun rights activists could have morphed from being concerned citizens into the perpetrators of Nebraska’s most infamous crime in a matter of one or two seconds.

Needless to say, this attempt to intimidate Nebraska’s elected officials caused quite an uproar. Senator Patty Pansing Brooks promised to never attend another committee hearing when somebody open carries a gun and she even reported receiving death threats. Senator Machaela Cavanaugh said she was “traumatized” by the experience and called for the legislature to pass a rule or law banning open carry in the State Capitol building.

Senator Adam Morfeld was angered by this incident and said: “I don’t have words for how upset I am. I’m upset, but I’m not scared. I’m not scared of these people, but I’m ashamed that members of this Legislature had to go through this.” Morfeld also reported receiving death threats from so-called gun rights activists.

Fortunately, there appears to be bi-partisan support in the Unicameral for a ban on open carry in the State Capitol Building. Speaker Jim Scheer appeared to be receptive to idea when he said: “I’m not anti-gun, but there’s a place for everything.” The Speaker asserted it raises “a safety issue.” Similarly, Senator Mike Hilgers — a staunch ally of the NRA — appeared receptive to the idea of changing the rules on open carry.

Unfortunately, Governor Pete Ricketts threw cold water on the idea of securing the safety of our state senators. The billionaire Governor touted his support for the Second Amendment and indicated he would be opposed to any changes in the rules. “This is the people’s house, and people have the right to open carry in the state,” he said, “so I support it and would be very hesitant about any further restrictions on it.”

Ricketts asserted: “I think also it gets back to, I’m comfortable around guns. I own guns. If somebody’s uncomfortable around guns, it may be in part because… they haven’t used them, they haven’t been trained around ’em. It’s just like anything else — if you have a familiarity with it, you’re more comfortable.”

Ricketts also said he felt felt secure in his office in the State Capitol building. What the billionaire Governor didn’t mention was that there is a State Patrol security detail at his office. It’s no wonder he feels safe. Senator Morfeld responded to Ricketts’ out of touch statements in a tweet: “Since you are so comfortable, I am looking forward to you inviting this guy back to the Capitol with his assault weapon during your next press conference.”

Ricketts’ comments revealed his elitist attitude towards his fellow elected officials. It’s real easy for Ricketts to feel “comfortable” about guns when he enjoys the safety of a State Patrol security detail paid for at taxpayer expense. Moreover, his opposition to securing the safety of our state senators shows his utter contempt for a co-equal branch of government.

The billionaire Governor’s support for open carry in the State Capitol building also exposes his extreme views on guns. There is a prevalent theory among gun rights activist that the Second Amendment’s protection of the right to bear arms is absolute. That is a ridiculous theory that is contrary to the history of Constitutional law going back to the seminal decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803. No constitutional right is absolute. For example, there are numerous exceptions to the right to an abortion.

The scope of the landmark 2008 Heller decision that recognized the right to bear arms was very limited in nature. All it did was overturn a ban on handguns in the District of Columbia. In his majority opinion in Heller, conservative icon Antonin Scalia held: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose. That limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”

Since 2008, at least two Federal Circuit courts have ruled that an assault weapons ban is constitutional. The Supreme Court has declined to overturn these decisions. What this means is that other gun law reform legislation — such as an improved background check system, raising the age of purchase to 21 and limitations on multiple gun purchases by individuals — are constitutional.

My educated guess is that these two men who showed up at the State Capitol with loaded military weapons unintentionally increased support for gun law reform. Most Nebraskans support common sense gun safety reforms but unfortunately those needed reforms have been blocked by a tyranny of the minority.

The first step towards gun law reform is to elect more Democrats to the legislature in 2020. I would recommend that you commit your time and/or money to good legislative candidates. Elections have consequences. Let’s chase the money changers out of the temple in 2020!

I’m a trial lawyer, a Democratic activist and a sports fan.

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