A Nebraska state patrolman says the number of drivers legally carrying weapons on Nebraska highways has increased during the last three years.
Lt. Jeff Roby said that he and other state troopers have noticed that more drivers are informing them they have a concealed handgun permit. Not all of those drivers have guns with them, but they inform troopers that they are licensed to carry a handgun.
Roby, who works at the Nebraska State Patrol Training Academy, said he has noticed the increase on both the interstate and state highways. Roby has been a state trooper for 19 years.
Grand Island police officers haven’t seen a noticeable rise in people who have a permit to carry handguns, said Grand Island Police Chief Steve Lamken. But at traffic stops, some drivers hand the officers their concealed carry permits along with their driver’s licenses.
Informing officers that they’re carrying a weapon is mandatory. Nebraska law requires that permit-holders carrying a concealed handgun immediately inform peace officers or emergency services personnel as soon as they are contacted by one.
Since January 2007, when the concealed handgun permit law took effect, the Nebraska State Patrol has issued 46,630 concealed handgun permits, said Deb Collins, public information coordinator for the State Patrol. The State Patrol has denied 499 applications.
Before applying for a permit, individuals must complete an approved handgun training and safety course. Once that is complete, the permit application and necessary documentation must be presented in person at a Nebraska State Patrol location.
The process includes taking fingerprints of the applicants.
Capt. Chris Kolb, commander of the State Patrol’s Troop C, does not know of an increase in civilians carrying handguns. But from the number of permits that have been issued, it’s just logical that troopers encounter permit-holders at traffic stops, he said.
The schedule to fingerprint applicants for permits at Troop C is full or almost full every week, Kolb said.
Some deputies surveyed by Hall County Sheriff Jerry Watson said they’ve noticed a slight increase in civilians licensed to carry handguns. But others say “it’s pretty much the same as it has been,” Watson said.
He said he doesn’t have a problem with people carrying handguns as long as they own a permit.
“The rulebook that we all live by is the Constitution, and we have the right to bear arms,” Watson said. “If they’re following all laws that are currently in place in carrying a concealed weapon, I don’t have an issue with that.”
Normally, it’s not an issue for police officers to deal with people who are licensed to carry handguns, Lamken said.
“Most people are very good at identifying that they have one and don’t create a lot of problems,” he said.
The law allowing an individual to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun is part of the Concealed Handgun Permit Act, passed by the Nebraska Legislature in 2006.
Instructors certified by the State Patrol teach the training courses that applicants must attend.
In addition to proof of training, applicants must provide proper identification, valid proof of citizenship and proof of vision.
The cost of obtaining a permit, good for a five-year period, is $100. A renewal costs $50. There is also a fee for the training course.
State and federal records are checked for all applicants.
A number of other states recognize a Nebraska concealed carry permit. Thirty states and the District of Columbia have standards equal to or greater than Nebraska’s guidelines.