Legislature(1993 - 1994)

09/17/1993 06:00 PM Senate STA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                 SENATE STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE                                
                         Fairbanks, AK                                         
                       September 17, 1993                                      
                           6:00 p.m.                                           
  MEMBERS PRESENT                                                              
 Senator Loren Leman, Chairman                                                 
 Senator Mike Miller, Vice Chairman                                            
 Senator Jim Duncan (participated                                              
    via teleconference from Juneau)                                            
  MEMBERS ABSENT                                                               
 Senator Robin Taylor                                                          
 Senator Johnny Ellis                                                          
  OTHER MEMBERS PRESENT                                                        
 Senator Mike Miller                                                           
  COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                           
 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 1                                                 
 Proposing amendments to the Constitution of the State of Alaska               
 relating to the individual right to keep and bear arms.                       
 SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 34                                                
 Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska             
 relating to the individual right to keep and bear arms.                       
  PREVIOUS SENATE COMMITTEE ACTION                                             
 SJR  1 - No previous action to record.                                        
 SJR 34 - No previous action to record.                                        
  WITNESS REGISTER                                                             
 Ms. Annette Kreitzer, Staff                                                   
 Senator Loren Leman                                                           
 State Capitol                                                                 
 Juneau, AK  99801                                                             
 Ms. Portia Babcock                                                            
 716 West 4th, Suite 540                                                       
 Anchorage, AK 99501-2133                                                      
 Ms. Bonnie Williams                                                           
 Alaska Second Amendment Coalition                                             
 1335 Sunnyslope Road                                                          
 Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                           
 Mr. Gary Hammond                                                              
 P. O. Box 71136                                                               
 Fairbanks, AK 99707                                                           
 Mr. Noel Napolilli, Chairman                                                  
 Alaska Second Amendment Coalition                                             
 251 Napolilli Lane                                                            
 Fairbanks, AK 99812                                                           
 Mr. Kenneth Maahs                                                             
 (no address)                                                                  
 Anchorage, AK                                                                 
 Mr. Les Zerbe                                                                 
 356 Louise Lane                                                               
 Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                           
 Mr. Bruce Campbell                                                            
 Tanana Valley Sportmen's Association                                          
 P. O. Box 82245                                                               
 Fairbanks, AK 99708                                                           
 Miss Grace Maahs                                                              
 (no address)                                                                  
 Anchorage, AK                                                                 
 Mr. Douglas Albright                                                          
 1084 Lakeview Terrace                                                         
 Fairbanks, AK 99701                                                           
 Mr. Timothy Baumgartner                                                       
 2058 Lakeview Terrace                                                         
 Fairbanks, AK 99701                                                           
 Mr. David Williams                                                            
 1335 Sunnyslope Road                                                          
 Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                           
 Mr. Tom Gorham                                                                
 4369 Bishops Circle                                                           
 Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                           
 Sue Wilken, Legislative Chair                                                 
 Fairbanks School Board                                                        
 2600 Riverview Drive                                                          
 Fairbanks, AK 99709                                                           
 Mr. Steve Colboch                                                             
 823 Goldstream Road                                                           
 Fairbanks, AK 99712                                                           
 ACTION NARRATIVE                                                              
 TAPE 93-32, SIDE A                                                            
 Number 001                                                                    
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN called the Senate State Affairs Committee meeting to           
 order and advised the meeting was convened as a work session to               
 review the resolutions although public testimony will be taken.               
 ANNETTE KREITZER, Staff to Chairman Leman, presented the sponsor              
 statement on his behalf for SJR 4.  She claimed that language                 
 contained in the Alaska Constitution is ambiguous and there have              
 been numerous legislative attempts to clarify the right of an                 
 individual to own a firearm, regardless of the use of the firearm.            
 Further, no Alaska Supreme Court interpretation has been done.  In            
 concluding her comments, she stated ". . . the individual right of            
 Alaskans to own firearms for legal purposes should not be left open           
 for unreasonable government intrusion or potential erosion of that            
 right or to uncertain court interpretation."                                  
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN noted the differences between SJR 34 and SJR 1, also           
 under consideration.  SJR 1 contains a provision that the amendment           
 would not change any municipal law related to firearms that is in             
 effect on the date of ratification of the amendment (November,                
 Number 10.33                                                                  
 PORTIA BABCOCK,   Committee Aide to Chairman Leman, speaking on her           
 own behalf and the NRA, elaborated on the differences between the             
 resolutions.  The main difference being Section 2, added in SJR 2             
 (referenced above), and that the resolution does not effect the               
 judicial standard of review.                                                  
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN questioned MS. BABCOCK about existing borough or               
 municipal laws that may be troublesome to firearm owners.                     
 MS. BABCOCK responded that the concealed weapons laws and                     
 ordinances of municipalities were of most concern.  With regard to            
 the Municipality of Anchorage, if the state enacted a concealed               
 weapons statute which would allow citizens to carry concealed                 
 weapons, it would be directly in conflict with a municipal                    
 ordinance currently in effect.                                                
 SENATOR LEMAN proceeded to call upon the following public                     
 MS. BONNIE WILLIAMS, Board of Directors of the Alaska Second                  
 Amendment Coalition (ASAC) testified on their behalf.  She is also            
 a life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA).  She                   
 supports SJR 34, and not SJR 1.  She thought a conservation                   
 estimate would be twice as many firearms as people in Alaska; and             
 in Fairbanks, probably 98 percent of households have at least one             
 firearm.  She commented on the high number of firearm-related                 
 activities, including people living by way of subsistence which               
 includes all seasonal hunting, and recreational uses.  She then               
 addressed the constitutional rights and privileges regarding                  
 possession of firearms and the need to preserve that freedom.  She            
 supports the passage of SJR 34 so the issue will be placed on the             
 ballot for vote.                                                              
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asked MS. WILLIAMS for clarification of the reason             
 they do not support SJR 1.  She responded that if the state                   
 constitution was amended, it should take precedence over local or             
 municipal laws and ordinances; and she would prefer that nothing be           
 left up to judicial review.                                                   
 Number 20.21                                                                  
 MR. GARY HAMMOND testified in support of SJR 34 and in opposition             
 to SJR 1.  The reason for his opposition to SJR 1 is based on                 
 language in Section 29 concerning existing firearm laws, and                  
 difficulty with some other language contained in the resolution.              
 He also questioned the provision of judges having the authority to            
 interpret the law's intent; he prefers explicit language.                     
 MR. NOEL NAPOLILLI, Chairman, Alaska Second Amendment Coalition,              
 spoke in favor of SJR 34 and in opposition to SJR 1, for the same             
 reasons stated by previous speakers.  He commented on the need for            
 the resolution such as the situation where the Attorney General's             
 Office issued a letter instructing the state troopers not to sign             
 Form Four for people who have applied for Class III weapons                   
 ownership.  The reason he felt this was done was because the                  
 administration doesn't want the proliferation of those weapons                
 among people.  He has letters which have been circulated that bear            
 this out.  He commented that this example illustrated the                     
 unreasonable infringement by the administration, or any                       
 administration, which should not have the power to limit citizens'            
 access to weapons just because they don't like them.  SJR 34 would            
 help protect the citizens from that kind of abuse of authority.               
 MR. KENNETH MAAHS, private investigator, was next to testify.                 
 Drawing from his experience in this area, he believes attempts to             
 regulate gun ownership has not worked in reducing crimes.  Rather,            
 when you cut the ownership of firearms to citizens, the criminals             
 have a larger chance to commit crimes.  He felt that anytime you              
 hinder people's right to defend themselves, it benefits the                   
 criminals.  He felt the police are unable to adequately defend the            
 citizens against criminals with weapons.  Of the two resolutions,             
 he favored SJR 34; and stressed the need for clear, concise                   
 language for the amendment.                                                   
 Number 31.23                                                                  
 MR. LES ZERBE commented on the need for a state's constitution to             
 be in agreement with the federal constitution which is clear to the           
 individual's right to protect himself.  He said the intent of the             
 federal constitution, and framers of it, was for individuals to be            
 able to protect themselves from their own government should it                
 become necessary.  So, provisions excluding certain kinds of                  
 firearms should not be included in any language of the state                  
 constitution as it was never intended for the military to become              
 more powerful than its citizenry.  He thought that if the law                 
 allowed everyone to carry a weapon, it would go a long way in                 
 protecting us from the criminal element in society.                           
 MR. ZERBE supports SJR 34 which would put specific language                   
 guaranteeing firearm ownership in the state's constitution.  The              
 language should include latitude to allow concealed weapons for               
 qualified individuals.                                                        
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN asked his thought about limitations placed on                  
 children carrying firearms in school and what he would consider a             
 "reasonable" restriction.  MR. LES ZERBE responded that                       
 "reasonable" would include specific age, such as 18; and could                
 contain other restrictions, such as having a clean record, and                
 having firearms training.                                                     
 MR. BRUCE CAMPBELL testified on behalf of the Tanana Valley                   
 Sportsmen's Association in support of efforts to clarify Section 19           
 of the Alaska Constitution.  He referenced the opinion from the               
 Attorney General's Office that "Section 19 `in the modern judicial            
 view', only applied to the right of the state to form a national              
 guard, possibly militia".  They disagree with that opinion and find           
 it extraneous and think it contributes to the reason why further              
 clarification is needed.  They favor the old language that was once           
 SJR 1 (prior to new complicated language being added); and like SJR
 34.  It is his understanding, based on legal opinions from other              
 states, that an individual right, such as this, does not restrict             
 the police power of the state.  As an instructor of firearms, he              
 commented on the female's different attitude about safety and                 
 protection and increased interest in this area.                               
 Number 40.20                                                                  
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN thanked him for testifying and asked about the                 
 Attorney General's opinion which he referenced.  MR. CAMPBELL                 
 indicated it was from former Attorney General Norm Gorsuch and that           
 he would provide a copy to the committee.  CHAIRMAN LEMAN stated              
 the committee would make whatever materials they have available to            
 others upon request.                                                          
   TAPE 93-32, SIDE B                                                          
 Number .02                                                                    
 MISS GRACE MAAHS expressed her thoughts about the appropriate use             
 of firearms, including training, and retaining individual                     
 possession for personal protection.                                           
 MR. DOUGLAS ALBRIGHT, twenty-two year resident of Fairbanks,                  
 testified in support of SJR 34.  He felt that SJR 1 contained                 
 fairly vague and ambiguous language which was open to                         
 interpretation.  Regarding carrying firearms in schools, he stated            
 that that action was covered by the federal Omnibus Crime Control             
 Act, which made it illegal for anyone to carry firearms in school             
 except for official purposes or school-sponsored activities.  He              
 expressed the need for a clear and simple state law in this area,             
 such as that contained in SJR 34.                                             
 MR. TIMOTHY BAUMGARTNER, twenty-three resident of Fairbanks, spoke            
 in favor of SJR 34.  He travels in the wilderness and is concerned            
 about retaining the ability to protect himself.  Weapons in his               
 home are used for several purposes: to hunt and provide food for              
 families; to use them for protection from those that might harm               
 them; and used as a means of teaching responsibility.  He said that           
 "having firearms is a traditional freedom" provided for by the                
 Number 5.17                                                                   
 MR. DAVID WILLIAMS, also a resident of Fairbanks, addressed the               
 historical perspective, especially as it related to the development           
 of what was called (by British Jurist Sir William Blackstone) "the            
 common law" which later became a part of American law in the form             
 of the Bill of Rights.  He paraphrased Sir Blackstone: "the right             
 of self defense is an inherent right of man, older than states, and           
 older than constitutions."  So, the second amendment right is a               
 right we have which cannot be taken away.  He questioned whether              
 the second amendment (U.S. Constitution) were inserted into the               
 Alaska Constitution, if it would solve our problems.                          
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN responded that the Alaska Constitution is written              
 very similarly to the U.S. Constitution; therein lies the problem,            
 as we no longer think in terms of militia charged with protecting             
 citizens from government intrusion.  Further, some state courts,              
 but not Alaska at present, are dealing with the distinction between           
 the individual and collective right.                                          
 MR. WILLIAMS referred to the language contained in Rhode Island law           
 which states "the right of the individual to keep and bear arms               
 shall not be infringed."  He suggested that anyone interested call            
 the Attorney General of that state as the law has worked quite well           
 and they do not have problems controlling felons or anyone else               
 from weapons ownership.  Further, he said the Director of Public              
 Safety mentioned that he was in favor of firearm ownership for                
 purposes of safety as it pertains to the concealed weapon law.  He            
 concluded that if we do not get this through, we may loose other              
 rights, too.                                                                  
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN returned to the issue of using the language from the           
 second amendment of the U.S. Constitution for Alaska.  He commented           
 that the language is the same; however, with various                          
 interpretations, it has led to the need for further clarification.            
 MR. WILLIAMS felt that the use of the collective term "people"                
 (Bill of Rights) also referred to the individual, as interpreted by           
 the Supreme Court.                                                            
 Number 13.30                                                                  
 MR. TOM GORHAM spoke in favor of SJR 34 and not SJR 1 because SJR
 34 eliminates much of the ambiguity and simplifies the law.  He               
 favors a concealed weapon plan and agrees it should be controlled             
 to the point that the person applying for the permit should meet              
 reasonable standards: meet age requirement, legally authorized to             
 own a weapon, and training with weapons.  He would like to see some           
 restrictions removed, such as carrying a concealed weapon but not             
 in public places; or carrying it in a vehicle if it is loaded.  He            
 felt if a person was deemed qualified to carry a weapon, it is                
 arbitrary to limit it to certain locations or under special                   
 MR. GORHAM referred to the discussion of firearms for use by the              
 militia versus individuals.  He felt it was intended to address the           
 individual need to carry firearms and that the language was dated             
 and no longer pertinent in today's terminology or use.  In response           
 to Chairman Leman's question about firearms at schools, he                    
 reiterated that these problems are dealt with by other laws.                  
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN discussed the previous legislative attempts to                 
 require training in firearms and water safety.  MR. GORHAM said               
 that given the misleading media exposure, he would like to see more           
 attention given to providing training on the proper use of                    
 Number 25.38                                                                  
 MS. SUE WILKEN, legislative chair, Fairbanks School Board, spoke on           
 its behalf.  She is also a thirty-eight year resident of Fairbanks            
 and avid hunter and fisherwoman.  The Board's main concern focusses           
 on the political divisions of the state.  The school board has                
 designated the school and school ground as being gun-free zones.              
 Parents are concerned with guns being carried across school grounds           
 during hunting season and parents picking up children with gun                
 racks in their cars.  The schools are able to enforce laws                    
 prohibiting guns in school through the federal law.  However, they            
 are charged with the responsibility of assuring safety on school              
 grounds (not contained in federal law), so they support a gun-free            
 designation in state law pertaining to the school grounds.                    
 MS. SUE WILKEN described the situation in Fairbanks in which an               
 armed parent was on school grounds in a truck, intending to                   
 threaten/harm a student.  The board feels that the message needs to           
 be clear that no weapons are permitted there; that school grounds,            
 as well as the buildings, are safe.                                           
 MR. STEVE COLBOCH, a firearms dealer, fully supports SJR 34.  He is           
 opposed to restricting firearms, such as in the above situation, as           
 a parent may pick up a child from school with plans of going                  
 hunting immediately.  He felt the example was an isolated instance            
 and that authorities should have been called if the man was posing            
 a threat.                                                                     
 TAPE 93-33, SIDE A                                                            
 Number .01                                                                    
 MR. COLBOCH continued his testimony regarding the need to address             
 this issue.                                                                   
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN talked about the committee's intent to get the                 
 resolution out and voted on.                                                  
 MR. NOEL NAPOLILLI returned to the table to comment on the issue of           
 weapons on school grounds.  He felt that posting the school grounds           
 was meaningless in this example.  The only people who will pay                
 attention to the restriction will be law-abiding citizens which               
 pose no threat.  He thought there were enough restrictions                    
 regarding the use of children using firearms.                                 
 MS. BONNIE WILLIAMS testified again on this issue.  She commented             
 on laws prohibiting carrying firearms on planes, and that the                 
 school board would not be prohibited from making a ruling about               
 firearms on school grounds.                                                   
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN thanked all the participants for their                         
 contributions, and talked about the distinctions between the                  
 resolutions.  He stated further testimony would be forthcoming                
 during the session.  The committee plans to have additional work              
 sessions, including Anchorage on November 21-22, and other                    
 CHAIRMAN LEMAN adjourned the meeting at 7:40 p.m.                             

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