Let’s just get straight to the facts. Politico’s Adam Learner reports that Nebraska lawmakers are busy passing a law that would “allow military spouses to avoid residency requirements in applying for concealed-carry permits for firearms.” Currently, military personnel stationed in Nebraska may apply for a permit without waiting the standard 180 days to establish residency in the state, as mandated by Nebraska state law. State Senator Paul Schumacher has offered an amendment that would allow persons receiving spousal benefits from the Department of Defense to apply for those permits without being residents as well . . .
The twist, as Learner sees it, is that “[s]ince the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013, this has included same-sex spouses.”
“Is not the Second Amendment sex blind? Color blind?” Schumacher said, advocating the inclusion of same-sex couples in the state’s exemption. “What great evil would come from saying a partner of somebody in the military … is entitled to exercise their Second Amendment rights to carry a concealed weapon in this state?”
Schumacher is an opponent of same-sex marriage, but a strong supporter of gun rights. After he voiced his support, the amendment passed 38-0.
State Sen. John Murante did not vote on the measure. When it passed, he voiced concern that the amendment could be used by same-sex marriage activists to overturn the state’s same-sex marriage law.
“I think we just recognized gay marriage,” Murante said. “We are now using the federal government’s standard for who receives the marriage benefits.”
Setting side for now the merits of gay marriage, there is one thing that makes me feel slightly uneasy about this. Schumacher’s bill extends and expands protections of civil rights, which is a good thing … but only for people who are currently serving in the U.S. military. We’re not talking about discounted groceries for retirees or any of the other pecuniary benefits and privileges that our veterans have earned with their service. The right to keep and bear arms is a basic civil right of all Americans — nay, of all people.
Nebraska has a restriction imposed on the free exercise of that right for non-residents, but chooses to waive it simply because a citizen has chosen a career path in military service (or, in the case of this bill, has chosen to marry someone on that career path.) Meanwhile, the Cornhusker State doesn’t recognize firearms carry licenses issued by fourteen of the fifty states, and doesn’t even offer non-resident permits to citizens not in military service, according to handgunlaw.us.
Why am I making such a big deal about this? I’ve long held as a fundamental principle that it is unhealthy for a free society to create special legal privileges for select, politically-favored groups. I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t say that it looks to me as though this bill treats military personnel and their spouses as just another politically-favored group. To use Mr. Schumacher’s own words, is not the Second Amendment blind to active duty service in our nation’s standing military? What if this were the right to freedom of speech, or free exercise of religion?
Don’t get me wrong, the bill is still a tiny step in the right direction; a tenth of a loaf is better than none, and at least we’re talking about slightly rolling back a restriction that shouldn’t be there in the first place. So, I’ll take this bill now, and look forward to the day when Americans visiting Nebraska can exercise their rights without having to volunteer for military service first.
[FULL DISCLOSURE: The author is an Air Force brat, born in an obscure corner of Louisiana to a career officer who spent his time stationed in, or flying to exotic places like Évreux, Nakhon Phanom, the Belgian Congo, and Omaha. He has not served in the military himself. Whether either of those facts enhance or detract from his credibility on the issue is up to the reader.]