Legislature(2005 - 2006)BUTROVICH 205
04/04/2006 08:30 AM Senate JUDICIARY
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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HB 400-CONFISCATION OF FIREARMS 10:20:34 AM CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS announced CSHB 400(FIN) to be up for consideration. REPRESENTATIVE JOHN COGHILL, Sponsor, introduced the bill. He said it was in response to Hurricane Katrina where the community had a tough time getting control of the area. The bill addresses a situation where there is near anarchy. It proposes to add a new section to AS 26.23.200 that states that there is no authority granted or implied under the Alaska Disaster Act that authorizes the confiscation of a firearm lawfully owned, possessed, or carried by law-abiding citizens. 10:24:04 AM SENATOR CHARLIE HUGGINS posed a hypothetical situation of martial law. He asked whether that would change the ability to confiscate privately owned weapons. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL did not know. SENATOR HUGGINS asked Representative Coghill to describe the circumstances that happened during Hurricane Katrina that ultimately brought forth HB 400. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL advised that the National Guard and local sheriff's department were involved in confiscating weapons from citizens. The National Rifle Association sued the local law enforcement over the issue but he didn't know how the suit turned out. DEAN GUANELI, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Department of Law (DOL), responded to Senator Huggins' question of martial law and advised that the governor has the authority to make certain declarations such as martial law. HB 400 addresses a disaster situation, which is carefully defined in Alaska law. In a situation where the governor declares martial law, it probably does not remove anybody's constitutional rights. 10:29:28 AM SENATOR HOLLIS FRENCH said for the record there was nothing in the bill to stop legitimate law enforcement efforts to prevent looters, thieves and rioters. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL agreed. 10:31:49 AM AUSTIN MAHAULKEY, Glennallen, testified that he agreed with the original bill but since then it has been amended. He took exception to line 11 and said if a peace officer can't take weapons how can he designate someone else to do it. He suggested the committee delete the entire section. MICHAEL NELSON, Glennallen, testified against the bill. He said the US Constitution allows citizens the right to bear arms. The United States military is mainly over seas, while Russia and China are next door. Who is to say during martial law that citizens don't have the right to protect themselves, he asked. He said he preferred the original version of the bill. BRIAN JUDY, National Rifleman's Association, testified in support of the bill. He referred to Hurricane Katrina of 2005 and advised the committee that after the disaster law-abiding citizens were stripped of their firearms by local law enforcement. The bill clarifies that during a state of emergency, law-abiding citizens will be assured of their right to bear arms and protect themselves against looters and thieves. 10:35:58 AM CHAIR SEEKINS closed public testimony. SENATOR HUGGINS asked Representative Coghill whether he was concerned over the amount of non-support the bill was getting from Glennallen. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL responded he wanted to craft the bill in such a way so that people could help the authorities gain control over a disaster situation. He indicated he was happy with the bill as it stood. CHAIR SEEKINS referred to line 8 and asked whether the person could be considered eligible for rehire. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said he'd be open to suggestions and be willing to discuss that option. SENATOR GRETCHEN GUESS asked for clarification whether the statute could force an elected official to forfeit their position. MR. GUANELI advised that the Legislature could set parameters that govern the holding of public office. To the extent that the Legislature could pose those kinds of requirements, then it is within their authority to say that a person convicted of certain offenses they would forfeit the constitutional right to bear arms. The Legislature could also force an elected official to forfeit a position of public office, he stated. CHAIR SEEKINS said he understood that the official would have to resign. 10:43:09 AM SENATOR GUESS said she would like to know where else in statute it states that an elected official must forfeit their position. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL noted that any forfeiture would have to go through due process. CHAIR SEEKINS held the bill in committee.