Legislature(1997 - 1998)
05/06/1997 02:30 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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, 12 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 13 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 14 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 15 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. 16 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.