A Nebraska resident without a concealed carry permit may no longer be allowed to carry a gun anywhere in their vehicle’s cab.
The Nebraska Supreme Court passed down a unanimous decision this week that makes it a violation of the state’s concealed carry laws to have a firearm accessible anywhere inside a vehicle when the vehicle comes to a stop.
State law says a Nebraskan cannot have a hidden firearm “on or about his or her person” without a valid permit. In the past the Court ruled that a handgun must be “within immediate physical reach” to violate the law, but did not specify whether or not the gun owner’s vehicle had to be stopped.
In the latest decision, the Court ruled against Joseph D. Senn, Jr., who had a handgun in a case wedged between the passenger seat and the passenger door of his vehicle. The sheriff’s deputy who first noticed the gun case said it was “completely on the other side of the cab” and that Senn could not have accessed the firearm while driving.
An appeals court initially sided with Senn, but the state moved the case to the high court, where judges said Senn could have grabbed the gun after the car came to a stop.
“We conclude that the jury, as a rational trier of fact, could have found that the handgun was on or about Senn’s person, even though it was not within his reach while driving,” Supreme Court Judge Max Kelch wrote for the unanimous court.
Needless to say, the decision has gun owners concerned.
Senn’s attorney, Keith Kollasch, told the Omaha World-Herald that the ruling will make transporting firearms in the state of Nebraska extremely difficult without a concealed carry permit.
“How do you transport a firearm in Nebraska, then?” he asked. “You’re pheasant hunting, you’ve got a firearm in a case, outside your reach. Under this ruling, they could probably charge you with a concealed weapons charge.”
Even after Senn’s vehicle came to a stop, accessing his firearm would have required him to lean all the way across his car and reach down between the passenger door and seat. If Senn’s storage location is within “immediate physical reach,” keeping a firearm in a case or locked safe anywhere in a vehicle’s cab (including the back seat) could land gun owners in hot water.
Rod Moeller, president of the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, told the Omaha World-Herald that Nebraskans have two alternatives if they don’t want to risk transporting a firearm within “immediate physical reach.”
They can keep the gun in plain sight so an officer can clearly see it when they approach the vehicle. That strategy, however, comes with a risk: Moeller said he’s heard of cases in which the open carry approach has resulted in a concealed weapons charge.
If Nebraskans wish to transport their firearms without any risk, the Court’s decision forces them to obtain a concealed carry permit or store their firearms in their trunk.