Legislature(2005 - 2006)BELTZ 211
04/22/2005 01:30 PM COMMUNITY & REGIONAL AFFAIRS
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HB 184 AM -MUNICIPAL FIREARM ORDINANCES CHAIR GARY STEVENS announced HB 184 to be up for consideration. Erich DeLand, Staff for Representative Mike Chenault, introduced HB 184 saying the intent is "to ensure that citizens be able to look to one law as the single and final authority regarding firearm regulation." It will guarantee consistency in firearm laws within Alaska. 2:11:44 PM BRIAN JUDY, Alaska State Liaison for the National Rifleman Association (NRA), urged support for HB 184. The legislation would broaden and strengthen the existing statute. Current law narrowly limits local municipalities' ability to restrict firearms in two areas. First is the right to own or possesses firearms within a residence and the second is the transportation of unloaded firearms in a vehicle. Under current law, local municipalities can impose any other restrictions. Existing law would allow restrictions in those two affirmation categories if approved by the voters. The NRA doesn't believe that's right. The fundamental constitutional rights of even a minority of the people should not be restricted by a majority of voters at some point in the future should they decide that they want to support such a restriction. HB 184 would standardize all the firearms laws throughout the state based on current and future statutes enacted by the Legislature. It would void any ordinances that are more or less restrictive than state law. He emphasized it would not lessen the existing body of state or federal laws. The problem with local firearm ordinances is that they create a complex patchwork of differing laws, which is unfair to citizens because they are at risk of violating laws that can vary widely from community to community. Currently 45 states deal with the problem of patchwork firearm laws by having firearm preemption laws on the books. Alaska's firearm preemption law is now among the weakest and the NRA believes it should be strengthened and broadened. 2:15:05 PM SENATOR BERT STEDMAN asked how many municipalities have ordinances that are more restrictive than the state's. MR. JUDY replied he could speak to that with respect to one specific issue. The Legislature passed legislation two years ago repealing the requirement that a person hold a permit to carry a firearm concealed for self-protection. Currently eight municipalities have laws that require permits. Some municipalities would oppose the bill based on the fact that their municipal ordinances would be overturned. Except for carrying concealed firearms, he believes most ordinances are consistent with state law. There's a state law dealing with firearms in schools and a state law restricting possession of firearms in bars. The bill was amended on the House floor to allow municipalities to enact discharge ordinances. The NRA is concerned about what could happen in the future and wants to prevent future passage of restrictive gun control laws on the local level. 2:17:36 PM JENNIFER YUHAS, Executive Director, Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC), echoed Mr. Judy's testimony and noted she sent written testimony to the committee. The AOC enthusiastically endorses the bill, which would more fully recognize the constitutionally guaranteed right to own firearms. Furthermore it would eliminate confusion for law-abiding citizens and remove the undue pressures of the already extended enforcement authorities. 2:18:53 PM CHERRIE RUESCH, Chugiak resident, said she trains 4-H youth in shooting sports and the consistency provided by HB 184 would help 4-H clubs as they expand their shooting educations programs She would no longer have to worry about knowing all local firearm ordinances when she travels to other communities to do training SENATOR THOMAS WAGONER questioned how many 4-H clubs have shooting programs. MS. RUESCH replied not every 4-H club works with firearms because not all firearms instructors are comfortable working with youths. SENATOR WAGONER asked what the requirements are for a youth to get a hunting license. MS. RUESCH replied those born after 1986 must take a hunter safety course. 2:21:19 PM SHANNON DAY, Bethel resident, spoke in support of the bill. ASHLEE MCDOUGAL, Houston resident, spoke in support of the bill. VICTORIA COAN, Wasilla resident, spoke in support of the bill. HEIDI SHEPHARD, Fairbanks resident, spoke in support of the bill. SASHA RUESCH, Chugiak resident, spoke in support of the bill. LUKE ENGVALL, Kodiak resident, spoke in support of the bill. BENJAMIN SMITH, Eagle River resident, spoke in support of the bill. JUSTIN SHATTUCK, Chugiak resident, spoke in support of the bill. 2:28:11 PM KATHIE WASSERMAN, Public Policy Coordinator, Alaska Municipal League (AML), said AML had reservations with the bill related to the word "use" but that appears to be resolved with the House amendment. Hopefully, the word "reasonable" doesn't become similarly problematic. She though AML discomfort would cease as long as municipalities are able to prohibit the firing of arms within certain areas of the municipality. CHAIR GARY STEVENS summarized that AML is comfortable with the House amendment to allow municipalities to deal with the discharge of firearms within municipal boundaries. MS. WASSERMAN replied she believes AML would remove its objection as long as the House amendment is in the bill. 2:30:06 PM CHAIR GARY STEVENS opened teleconference testimony. SCOTT HAMMON, Kenai resident, testified that the bill is prudent and reasonable. CARY GRAVES, Attorney, City of Kenai, testified that his testimony is similar to Ms. Wasserman's. The city has an ordinance that prohibits the discharge of firearms in residential areas, but allows it in non-residential areas. The concern with the original version of HB 184 was that it would repeal the ordinance. The House floor amendment alleviates the concern by allowing municipalities to provide reasonable restrictions on the discharge of firearms. He urged members to keep the amended language in the bill. DENNY K. WEATHERS, spoke in support of HB 184 and noted she also faxed her testimony to the committee. CHAIR GARY STEVENS noted there was no further testimony. 2:34:23 PM SENATOR WAGONER motioned to report HB 184 AM and attached fiscal notes from committee with individual recommendations. CHAIR GARY STEVENS asked for a roll call vote. The motion to move HB 184 AM carried 3 to 0 with Senators Stedman, Wagoner and Chair Gary Stevens voting yea.