Legislature(1993 - 1994)
02/22/1994 03:00 PM HES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 417 - POSSESSION OF FIREARMS IN SCHOOL LOCKERS CHAIR BUNDE stated that after much consideration, he had Jerry Luckhaupt from Legislative Legal Counsel draft the new committee substitute (CS) that prescribes punishment to be a class A misdemeanor opposed to a Class C felony. It was his intention that the Class A misdemeanor would send the appropriate message. Number 165 REP. TOOHEY made a motion to adopt the CS as a working draft. Number 169 CHAIR BUNDE, hearing no objections, declared that the CS was so moved. He stated that Section 1 amends AS 11.61.220 by providing that a person commits the crime of misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree if the person possesses a deadly weapon on school grounds, a parking lot, preschool, elementary, junior high, secondary, and in some situations, post-secondary schools. He said the violation is a Class B demeanor. CHAIR BUNDE then said, "Mr. Luckhaupt, I thought we moved to Class A." Number 202 MR. LUCKHAUPT, Attorney, Legislative Legal Counsel, Legislative Affairs Agency, stated that the section Chair Bunde read from was used for the original CS. He further stated that since he had been working all day, prior to the meeting, on the CS he did not have time to prepare a sectional. Number 234 CHAIR BUNDE indicated that version 8-LS1589/O (version O) of the CS was the proposal being addressed. He asked Mr. Luckhaupt to address CS (version O). MR. LUCKHAUPT said that Section 1 makes possession of deadly weapons on school grounds and school sponsored events a Class A misdemeanor. He said it was the same language used in AS 11.61.220 of the previous CS (version J). He continued and said Section 2 applies an exception to peace officers that allows them, within the performance of duty, to possess a deadly weapon on school grounds. Section 3 repeals the language that was taken out of AS 11.61.220 regarding the possession of a firearm on school grounds. He stated it was a conforming change. He said Section 4 and Section 5 remain the same. He indicated a change on page 1, line 1, of the title, where the word deadly was deleted, leaving the title to indicate the possession of weapons, not deadly weapons. Number 323 CHAIR BUNDE clarified by saying the term weapons would include deadly and defensive weapons. MR. LUCKHAUPT agreed. He said the changes required were minimal in changing from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A. CHAIR BUNDE said last week the bill was amended to include school sponsored events. Number 353 REP. TOOHEY said she might be missing Section 5. MR. LUCKHAUPT interjected that a mistake was made and that Section 6 should be Section 5. Number 387 After some discussion, REP. TOOHEY, made a motion to adopt the technical amendment changing Section 6 to Section 5. REP. BRICE asked if the word participating would include being a person who purchases a ticket and sits in the stands. CHAIR BUNDE said that it was his understanding that a prosecutor would be able to establish to the jury the offenders' intentions under the definition of participating. Number 403 MARGOT KNUTH, Assistant Attorneys General, Department of Law, agreed with Chair Bunde. REP. BRICE asked if the legislation was applicable to people walking in and out of the gates of a football game in a borough park. MS. KNUTH replied yes. Number 434 REP. OLBERG asked if there was a definition of defensive weapon. CHAIR BUNDE responded that defensive weapon is defined in statute. MR. LUCKHAUPT read from statute the definition of defensive weapon: "an electric stun gun, or a devise to dispense mace or a similar chemical agent that is not designed to cause death or serious physical injury." Number 455 REP. VEZEY asked if lines 1-10 on page 3 were being deleted. MR. LUCKHAUPT said that AS 11.61.220 (a)(4)(a) was being repealed. REP. VEZEY stated that the line would read, "...knowingly possesses a firearm within the grounds or on a parking lot." MR. LUCKHAUPT agreed. He said that lines 12-15 on page 3 pertained to child care centers. He indicated that the proposal was dealing with schools and weapons in school lockers and child care centers could not be included. Number 520 REP. VEZEY asked what the intent was under Section 2. CHAIR BUNDE said it was not his intent to disallow peace officers to have a deadly weapon when they are on school grounds. REP. VEZEY asked what Chair Bunde interpreted as being the scope and authority of a peace officer's employment. CHAIR BUNDE stated that they are following their sworn duty. REP. VEZEY asked what the circumstances would be if the peace officers were off duty. CHAIR BUNDE maintained that they are still sworn officers. He further stated if a person is a sworn officer and is off duty, that officer is required to respond to crimes in progress. REP. VEZEY suggested that the sentence be terminated after the words peace officer. Number 565 MR. LUCKHAUPT stated that the section was drafted the same way as existing statute. He further stated that from his understanding peace officers are in reality on duty 24 hours a day within a municipality, even though pay is for only eight hours a day. MS. KNUTH agreed with Mr. Luckhaupt. She said she did not find the language troublesome. REP. VEZEY asked the legal circumstance of an off duty Fairbanks peace officer who attends a North Pole school function. He stated that the officer would be clearly out of his/her jurisdiction. MS. KNUTH said that the language contained in the CS is the same language used for concealed weapons, which holds exception for peace officers. She also explained that if a peace officer has the ability to carry a concealed weapon anywhere, he/she is also able to go on to school grounds. Number 636 CHAIR BUNDE asked if there would be legal implications to an officer in uniform wearing a nonconcealed weapon. MS. KNUTH she said what is trying to be avoided is the peace officer who "goes bonkers" and goes to a school ground. She said that peace officers have no special privileges because of their specific employment. CHAIR BUNDE stated, "Beyond the scope of their employment." MS. KNUTH agreed. CHAIR BUNDE understood Rep. Vezey's concern, but said he was comfortable with the language. Number 685 REP. NICHOLIA conveyed the rural perspective. She said some students have a long distance to travel to school. She said they carry guns with them, in a car or truck, or walking, in case of bear encounters. She asked what kind of impact the proposal would have on rural areas. MS. KNUTH explained that there should be no impact because the focus of the proposal is to change the offense from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class A misdemeanor. She indicated that there is already a provision to allow a student to obtain special permission from a school administrator to carry a weapon. REP. NICHOLIA said that the legislation would allow a person over 21 years of age to have a gun in the trunk of a car or encased in a closed container in a motor vehicle. She asserted that in rural areas there are more trucks than cars. She explained that with trucks not having trunks, most people have racks in their trucks. She felt that the legislation would have a drastic effect on rural communities, and asked if there could be a change made to address the issue. MS. KNUTH said the issue was addressed when the language was adopted by the legislature two or three years ago. She said that the law provides for these situations. She said if a person in a rural community continually picks their child up from school in a truck with a rack with a rifle on it, special arrangements should be made with the school administrator. She said the provision focuses mainly on having knowledge of the weapons in a community and making sure that people are acting responsibly. REP. NICHOLIA said, "A state trooper or someone who might be in the area could interpret it in a different way, and we'd end up with a huge lawsuit or huge court case." She then said that people in rural areas usually do not have the funds to defend themselves with a good lawyer. MS. KNUTH said the residents of rural areas should already be making special arrangements to avoid those difficulties. Number 786 CHAIR BUNDE observed that an intoxicated person with a loaded weapon on a school ground would be just as much of a danger in rural Alaska than in urban Alaska. REP. KOTT, referring to page 2, line 20, asked if a security guard contracted by the school for a special event would be provided for within Section 2. MS. KNUTH said no. She said that a police officer is a person with law enforcement authority, and a security guard does not have that authority. CHAIR BUNDE indicated that security guards on school properties are not armed. MR. LUCKHAUPT said that the chief of administration could approve the possession of weapons for security guards. REP. KOTT asked about the implications if a security guard were just contracted for a weekend sporting event. MS. KNUTH, to her understanding, said that private security guards are not permitted to carry concealed weapons. Therefore, she said, the chief administrative officer of a school could permit them to carry a weapon as long as it is not concealed. Number 850 REP. VEZEY asked what was being accomplished under the proposal that is not under existing law. CHAIR BUNDE asserted that the main thrust of the bill is the ability to search lockers, which is not available at the present time. REP. VEZEY asked if that was not already allowed by statute. MR. LUCKHAUPT explained that there is a certain amount of authority allowed in common law to search lockers. Students do not have an absolute right to privacy within a school. He said the intent of the bill is to provide chief administrators of schools with statute that offers guidelines of when and how a locker can be searched. A level of certainty would be provided for administrative officers by decreasing the risk of potential law suits. He further stated that the search provisions of the bill do not decrease or eliminate any other rights the already exist. Number 924 REP. BRICE made a motion to move CSHB 417 (version O) out of committee with individual recommendations. CHAIR BUNDE, hearing no objections, said CSHB 417 had moved out of committee. CHAIR BUNDE brought HB 362 to the table.