Legislature(1997 - 1998)

05/06/1997 02:30 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
  SENATE BILL 141                                                              
                                                                               
       "An  Act   relating  to  permits  to   carry  concealed                 
       handguns; and relating to the possession of firearms."                  
                                                                               
  TUCKERMAN BABCOCK, STAFF, SENATOR LYDA GREEN, commented that                 
  the intent of SB 141 is simple.  There is no reason that the                 
  permitted few should be more restricted than the unregulated                 
  many.    He  suggested treating  people  and  their handguns                 
  equally.  All Alaskans, who are not otherwise  prohibited by                 
  federal or state law from owning or possessing handguns, can                 
  carry  handguns  openly  in  certain  places and  can  carry                 
  concealed without  a permit in  certain places.   An Alaskan                 
  should be able  to carry a  concealed handgun in those  same                 
  places,  and   should  be  required  to  do   no  more  than                 
  fingerprinting, training and background checks.                              
                                                                               
  Mr. Babcock noted that with the exception of the recognition                 
  of out-of-state permits and the lowering of the  permit fee,                 
  the  Alaska Peace Officers Association supports SB 141.  The                 
  Department of Public Safety (DPS) supports most of the bill,                 
  although, opposes certain sections.  The Department contends                 
  that  without  an increase  in  volume, reducing  fees could                 
  result in not collecting enough funds  to cover the costs of                 
  the program.  The Department  remains opposed to recognizing                 
  out-of-state  permits  and  are  definitely  cautious  about                 
  changing the law.                                                            
                                                                               
  Mr. Babcock summarized that existing law is too restrictive,                 
  confusing  and  expensive.    Under   current  law,  one  is                 
  prohibited from walking into a  financial institution with a                 
  permitted  concealed  handgun, but  is  allowed to  take the                 
  handgun out and carry it openly into the bank.  He suggested                 
  that existing law too often turns common sense upside down.                  
                                                                               
  Representative J. Davies spoke  to his philosophy  regarding                 
  the  proposed  legislation.    He  believed  that  concealed                 
  weapons  should be prohibited in a bank with only open-carry                 
  allowed.  Mr.  Babcock commented that  the people who  apply                 
  for permits to  carry concealed guns  are not the ones  that                 
  commit crimes with those weapons.   If a person's intent was                 
  to cause damage in  a bank, they would not be concerned with                 
  carrying a permit or not.                                                    
                                                                               
  Representative  Kelly  questioned under  the  proposed bill,                 
                                                                               
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  would a person be allowed to carry a concealed weapon into a                 
  bar.    Mr.  Babcock  stated  that  would  not  be  allowed.                 
  Representative G.  Davis argued  against the  statement that                 
  people  who obtain  a  permit  to  carry concealed  are  all                 
  upstanding citizens.   He stressed  that there has  not been                 
  enough study regarding that statement.  Representative Kelly                 
  countered that history from other states does indicate these                 
  positive results.                                                            
                                                                               
  Representative Mulder questioned  the fee structure  changes                 
  recommended by  the sponsor.   Mr. Babcock replied  that the                 
  current fee structure is up to  $125 dollars for the initial                 
  permit and $60 for renewal after  five years.  Senator Green                 
  is proposing to reduce  that to $99 dollars for  the initial                 
  cost and $30  dollars for  renewal.  The  course would  cost                 
  between  $100  to  $150 dollars.    If  the  volume were  to                 
  increase,  the Department of Public Safety  would be able to                 
  meet their target  with the  amount of money  that would  be                 
  generated from the  $99 dollar fee.   The fixed cost  to the                 
  Department is roughly $60 dollars.                                           
                                                                               
  LAUREE  HUGONIN,  EXECUTIVE  DIRECTOR,   ALASKA  NETWORK  ON                 
  DOMESTIC VIOLENCE  AND  SEXUAL ASSAULT,  JUNEAU, voiced  her                 
  concern that the Network opposes three sections of the bill;                 
  Section #10, #13 and #16.                                                    
                                                                               
  She noted  that the  current list  of permit  qualifications                 
  excludes persons who  have committed felonies and  a various                 
  list of misdemeanors including crimes against a person and a                 
  crime involving domestic violence.  She stressed that if the                 
  bill  passes  in it's  current  form, it  would  remove that                 
  restriction.  The Network strongly opposes that action.                      
                                                                               
  Section #13 addresses when  a permit could be  suspended and                 
  would  be  when there  has been  a  crime charged  against a                 
  person or a crime involving domestic  violence.  A person at                 
  that point could have been charged  with a crime even though                 
  they had not been convicted.   Ms. Hugonin testified that it                 
  would  be  appropriate  to  suspend   a  permit  in  certain                 
  circumstances.  She urged that current statute stand.                        
                                                                               
  Section  #16  repeals  and reenacts  a  list  of prohibitive                 
  places  to  carry  concealed.    A  facility  that  provides                 
  services to domestic violence and sexual assault victims was                 
  not included, even  though not listed in the  crime section,                 
  she stressed  that it is  a locked facility.   If the person                 
  carries  concealed,  the  option  to  deny entrance  is  not                 
  available.                                                                   
                                                                               
  Ms.  Hugonin  refuted  the notion  that  people  in domestic                 
  violence  centers  and those  that  work there  are "sitting                 
  ducks".    She emphasized  that  these places  are  homes of                 
                                                                               
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  refuge.   Places  where  skills  of  dialogue,  negotiation,                 
  fairness, truth-telling and sharing are practiced.   Because                 
  the Network works  to carry out  this vision, does not  mean                 
  that they ignore the real world.   Employees at the shelters                 
  teach victims to learn how to arm themselves with knowledge,                 
  companions  and  with  the  belief  in the  possibility  and                 
  willingness to stand for peace.                                              
                                                                               
  She  requested that weapons  not be allowed  on the shelters                 
  premise and that request be  respected and clearly specified                 
  in law.                                                                      
                                                                               
  Discussion   followed   regarding   Section    #13   between                 
  Representative Mulder and  Ms. Hugonin.   Mr. Babcock  noted                 
  that Committee members packet included a memo dated 3/24/97,                 
  from Legal Counsel to Senator Green,  stating that it should                 
  be unlawful  for any person  to possess  a fire arm,  who is                 
  subject to a  court order.   The sponsor's position is  that                 
  federal law  already prohibits those people  from possessing                 
  any  firearms.   Ms.  Hugonin replied  that  there are  some                 
  federal  provisions  which  are  not  as  expansive  as  the                 
  Domestic Violence  Protection Act  passed last  year.   That                 
  protective  order included in  the Alaska  Statutes includes                 
  emergency protective  orders.   Federal law  does not  cover                 
  those, while defining who is eligible to obtain a protective                 
  order in a more narrow field.                                                
                                                                               
  (Tape Change HFC 97-125, Side 2).                                            
                                                                               
  Mr. Babcock spoke to the broad federal  laws preclusion list                 
  of  firearms.    He  pointed  out  that  AS  11.61.200(a)(8)                 
  prohibits the possession  of a  fire arm while  a person  is                 
  committing  a  trespass  in  the   first  or  second  degree                 
  violation of  the domestic  violence  restraining order  and                 
  that  AS  11.61.200(a)(9) prohibits  the  possession  of any                 
  firearm   concealed   or   open  while   the   possessor  is                 
  communicating with  another  person in  violation  of  their                 
  domestic restraining order.                                                  
                                                                               
  JAYNE ANDREEN,  DIRECTOR, COUNCIL  ON DOMESTIC  VIOLENCE AND                 
  SEXUAL  ASSAULT,  ANCHORAGE,  expressed  concerns  that  the                 
  Council has on SB 141.  She pointed out that the Legislature                 
  and the Administration worked  very hard three years  ago to                 
  craft  a concealed handgun  system which  contained adequate                 
  safeguards.  There have been no problems with that system to                 
  date.                                                                        
                                                                               
  Ms.  Andreen spoke to  the specific areas  which the Council                 
  has addressed concerns with in the proposed legislation:                     
                                                                               
       *    Protection for domestic  violence and  sexual                      
            assault  victims  needs to  be  paramount and                      
                                                                               
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            under  the  eligibility qualifications.   The                      
            Council is concerned that the prohibition  on                      
            a protective order has been jeopardized under                      
            federal law;                                                       
                                                                               
       *    Under the eligibility list, someone under the                      
            bill would have  had to  be convicted of  two                      
            class A  misdemeanors in order to be eligible                      
            for  a concealed handgun  permit.  That would                      
            exclude the mass majority of domestic violent                      
            offenders.                                                         
                                                                               
       *    The  prohibition  of  concealed  handguns  in                      
            domestic violence sexual  assault facilities.                      
                                                                               
                                                                               
  Ms. Andreen  pointed out that  we need  to acknowledge  that                 
  some domestic violence  and sexual assault victims  are very                 
  proficient at use of handguns.  The reality is that  many of                 
  these  victims  do  not  have  that  level  of  proficiency.                 
  Additionally, there are  many other  adults and children  in                 
  these facilities.  To date, there has been an assurance that                 
  these  facilities have emergency  procedures.   She stressed                 
  that  it  is very  important  to  use the  criminal  justice                 
  system, use a  safety process  to enforce  safety for  these                 
  victims.                                                                     
                                                                               
  Ms. Andreen requested the Committee  to consider banning all                 
  guns  from  these  facilities,   both  openly  carried   and                 
  concealed.                                                                   
                                                                               
  ARTHUR  SNOWDEN,  ADMINISTRATIVE   DIRECTOR,  ALASKA   COURT                 
  SYSTEM, advised that  the Supreme Court feels  strongly that                 
  an  amendment  be added  to  the  bill which  would  ban all                 
  firearms  from court facilities.  Federal  law does ban them                 
  from  federal court houses.  Mr. Snowden stressed the highly                 
  emotionally charged environment that exists  in a court room                 
  situation and that the  bill needs to be amended  to address                 
  these concerns.                                                              
                                                                               
  Representative  Kohring stated  that the procedure  of those                 
  persons  in  going  through  the permitting  process  should                 
  present minimal problems for the court  system.  Mr. Snowden                 
  respectfully disagreed.  He reiterated that court houses are                 
  highly charged emotional environments.                                       
                                                                               
  Representative  Martin questioned  if  courts  houses had  a                 
  court  ruling  pertaining  to the  expressed  concern.   Mr.                 
  Snowden replied that  the court does  have a ruling  against                 
  concealed weapons.   Although, citizens  are not charged  by                 
  law with knowing or obeying court rule, but they are charged                 
  by law with knowing  the statues and laws of the  State.  He                 
                                                                               
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  reiterated that we  need to ban  firearms by law from  being                 
  carried in court houses.                                                     
                                                                               
  DEAN  GUANELI,  CHIEF ASSISTANT  ATTORNEY  GENERAL, CRIMINAL                 
  DIVISION,  DEPARTMENT  OF  LAW,  explained  that  there  are                 
  problems with the  bill which  need to be  addressed by  the                 
  Finance Committee.  Those problems fall into two areas:                      
                                                                               
       *    Current law establishes a list of  classes of                      
            people  who  can  not  get concealed  handgun                      
            permits.   The legislation  would sweep  away                      
            that protection.                                                   
                                                                               
       *    Current  law  also contains  a  long  list of                      
            places  where concealed  handguns can  not be                      
            carried, which the bills disregards.                               
                                                                               
  Mr.  Guaneli focused  on some  of  the provisions  which are                 
  being repealed by  the bill.   He agreed with Mr.  Snowden's                 
  idea of banning all kinds of protection in court houses, and                 
  the  type  of  ultimate  protection that  domestic  violence                 
  shelters and places  that provide services to  victims would                 
  really need.  He  suggested that any amendment dealing  with                 
  court houses should  also include an additional  line taking                 
  into consideration where  services are  added to victims  of                 
  domestic violence and sexual assault.                                        
                                                                               
  He suggested  that the  classes of  people who  can not  get                 
  concealed handguns are  important to remain in  current law.                 
  Current law  states  that someone  who is  suffering from  a                 
  mental  illness  can  not get  a  concealed  handgun permit.                 
  Federal law  states that  if you  have  been adjudicated  or                 
  institutionalized, you can not carry a  fire arm.  There are                 
  many people walking the  streets who are quite  paranoid who                 
  are law abiding citizens yet are  crazy.  Those people under                 
  the proposed legislation could receive a permit.                             
                                                                               
  At this time,  the Department of Public  Safety will receive                 
  an  application  from  someone who  otherwise  looks  like a                 
  perfect applicant, and  then they will receive  letters from                 
  the community  indicating  the  marginal  ability  of  these                 
  people to be capable  of having a permit responsibly.   This                 
  type of protection  does not exist  in federal law and  must                 
  exist in State law.                                                          
                                                                               
  Mr. Guaneli  addressed other specifications  such as  people                 
  who   had   been   ordered  by   the   court   into  alcohol                 
  rehabilitation within the  last three  years.  Those  people                 
  should  not be  carrying a concealed  handgun.   Federal law                 
  does  not  speak  to serious  alcoholics;  federal  law only                 
  addresses someone who is addicted or  a user of a controlled                 
  substance.                                                                   
                                                                               
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  Mr.  Guaneli noted  that  if there  is going  to be  a great                 
  expansion  of  the  places   where  concealed  handguns  are                 
  displayed under permit, there needs to be an amendment under                 
  the State Criminal  Trespass laws  to give public  buildings                 
  and premises the same rights as private places.                              
                                                                               
  Representative J. Davies requested more clarification  under                 
  current trespass laws.   Mr. Guaneli responded  that current                 
  law stipulates that  a sign would  be effective to  prohibit                 
  trespassing activities.   Representative J.  Davies asked if                 
  the proposed bill would affect  current law with respect  to                 
  private property.   Mr. Guaneli stated  it would not  affect                 
  any of the criminal trespass laws.                                           
                                                                               
  Representative Kelly MOVED to adopt Amendment  #1.  [Copy on                 
  file].  Representative Kohring OBJECTED.                                     
                                                                               
  Representative Kelly reiterated  that the  court room was  a                 
  charged environment and  that concealed handguns  should not                 
  be allowed.  Mr. Babcock  retorted that currently under  the                 
  law,  carrying openly  or  concealed  in  a court  house  is                 
  prohibitive.  A person would be thrown  in jail by the court                 
  system for contempt of  court.  Since it is  already written                 
  into law, he  urged that addition  of the language would  be                 
  redundant.                                                                   
                                                                               
  A roll call vote was taken on the MOTION.                                    
                                                                               
       IN FAVOR:      Grussendorf, Kelly,  Mulder, J.  Davies,                 
                      G. Davis, Foster                                         
       OPPOSED:       Kohring                                                  
                                                                               
  Representatives Martin,  Moses, Therriault  and Hanley  were                 
  not present for the vote.                                                    
                                                                               
  The MOTION PASSED (6-1).                                                     
                                                                               
  SB 141 was HELD in Committee for further consideration.                      

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