State Preemption of Local Firearms Laws 

Nebraska generally preempts local governments from regulating firearms except in limited circumstances discussed below.  

Nebraska grants the following limited authority to local jurisdictions to regulate firearms:

  • Cities of 300,000 or more inhabitants may “punish and prevent the carrying of concealed weapons, except the carrying of a concealed handgun in compliance with the Concealed Handgun Permit Act…and the discharge of firearms, other than the discharge of firearms at a shooting range pursuant to the Nebraska Shooting Range Protection Act.”1;
  • Cities with between 100,000 and 300,000 inhabitants may “prevent use of firearms…and prohibit carrying of concealed weapons” consistent with the Concealed Handgun Permit Act.2;
  • Cities with between 5,000 and 100,000 inhabitants may “regulate, punish, and prevent the discharge of firearms…in the streets, lots, grounds, and alleys or about or in the vicinity of any buildings…[and] regulate, prevent, and punish the carrying of concealed weapons” consistent with the Concealed Handgun Permit Act;3 and
  • Cities with between 800 and 5,000 inhabitants may “regulate, punish, and prevent the discharge of firearms…in the streets, lots, grounds, alleys, or about or in the vicinity of any buildings [and] regulate, prevent, and punish the carrying of concealed weapons” consistent with the Concealed Handgun Permit Act.4

Furthermore, state law specifically prohibits cities and villages from requiring registration of a concealed handgun owned, possessed, or transported by a permitholder under the Concealed Handgun Permit Act.5  It is unclear whether the state’s gun laws preempt local handgun registration requirements for handguns kept in the home that would not require a concealed carry permit. 6

Local Regulation of Handgun Purchases

Regarding the purchase of handguns, Nebraska Revised Statutes section 69-2401 provides that “[t]he state has a valid interest in the regulation of the purchase, lease, rental, and transfer of handguns.” Sections 69-2401 through 69-2425 require, among other things, that a handgun transferee either undergo a background check or obtain a handgun certificate before the transfer. Local regulations enacted before September 6, 1991 are valid notwithstanding these requirements, as section 69-2425 provides that “[a]ny city or village ordinance existing on September 6, 1991 [the date the legislation became effective], shall not be preempted by sections 69-2401 to 69-2425.”7  Apart from handguns covered by the Concealed Handgun Permit Act, it is not clear whether new local regulations concerning the transfer of handguns would be preempted by state law.

Local Regulation of Shooting Ranges

Nebraska also precludes localities from regulating certain aspects of shooting ranges. 8 State law provides that any shooting range in existence as of the effective date of the Nebraska Shooting Range Protection Act (August 30, 2009) may continue to operate as a shooting range notwithstanding any law, rule, regulation, ordinance or resolution related to zoning enacted thereafter by a city, county, village or other political subdivision, if such range is operated in compliance with shooting range performance standards.9 Any discharge-related laws adopted by local governments that would apply to the discharge of a firearm at an existing shooting range are unenforceable.10 Local jurisdictions have authority to “punish and prevent” the discharge of firearms other than discharge at a shooting range.11

Any noise-related regulations adopted by local governments that would apply to an existing shooting range are also prohibited.12

A city, county, village or other political subdivision may limit the hours between 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that an outdoor shooting range may operate.13

Finally, the Nebraska Shooting Range Protection Act does not prohibit a city, county, village or other political subdivision from regulating the location and construction of a shooting range.14

Preemption Generally in Nebraska

There are no cases addressing preemption of local firearms regulation by the state. Accordingly, to determine whether a local law regulating firearms is preempted by state law, the following information about preemption in Nebraska may be useful.

Nebraska generally authorizes cites with over 300,000 inhabitants to make ordinances:

[N]ot inconsistent with the general laws of the state, as may be necessary or expedient, in addition to the special powers otherwise granted by law, for maintaining the peace, good government, and welfare of the city and for preserving order, securing persons or property from violence, danger, and destruction, for protecting public and private property, for promoting the public health, safety, convenience, comfort, morals, and general interests, and welfare of the inhabitants of the city.15

Similar provisions exist governing cities with less than 300,000 inhabitants. (For cities with between 100,000 and 300,000 inhabitants, see section 15-263; for cities with between 5,000 and 100,000 inhabitants, see section 16-246; for cities with between 800 and 5,000 inhabitants, see section 17-505.)

The general rule in Nebraska is that state law preempts a local law in three instances: 1) when the state explicitly conveys its intention that a law preempts local laws on the same subject; 2) when the state’s intention to preempt local law is implied by a comprehensive scheme of legislation on a particular subject; also known as “field preemption” and 3) where the local law is inconsistent with state law.16

 

Notes
  1. Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 14-101, 14-102(6). ⤴︎
  2. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 15-255. ⤴︎
  3. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 16-227. ⤴︎
  4. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 17-556. ⤴︎
  5. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 18-1703. ⤴︎
  6. See Neb. Rev. Stat. , §§ 69-2401, et seq. ⤴︎
  7. See, e.g., Omaha Municipal Code, §§ 20-251 et seq., requiring registration of concealable handguns, except those for which a concealed handgun permit has been obtained. ⤴︎
  8. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1301 et seq. ⤴︎
  9. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1304. ⤴︎
  10. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1306. ⤴︎
  11. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 14-102(6). ⤴︎
  12. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1305. ⤴︎
  13. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1308. ⤴︎
  14. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 37-1310(1). ⤴︎
  15. Neb. Rev. Stat. § 14-102.01. ⤴︎
  16. State ex rel. City of Alma v. Furnas County Farms, 667 N.W.2d 512, 522-23 (Neb. 2003). ⤴︎