Legislature(1995 - 1996)
04/24/1996 01:50 PM FIN
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SENATE BILL NO. 177 "An Act relating to permits to carry concealed handguns." BRENT HUBER, STAFF, SENATOR GREEN testified on behalf of SB 177. He provided the Committee with written testimony (copy on file). He maintained that SB 177 will revise the current concealed handgun program to provide a more streamlined and less costly process. Mr. Huber provided members with a sectional analysis of SB 177 (copy on file). He reviewed the sectional analysis. He noted that the sponsor has provided an amendment that would remove subsections 1(e) and 11(a). Subsection 1(a) would 6 provide an affirmative defense for AS 11.61.210 that would allow permit holders to carry concealed weapons on school grounds providing that they did not exit a propelled vehicle. He stressed that the sponsor has tried to find language that would allow permit holders the opportunity to pick up or drop off their children at school. The sponsor was not able to find language that was agreeable to opponents and recommends the deletion of the existing language. TESS LANUM, VICE PRESIDENT ON LEGISLATION, ALASKA STATE PARENT/TEACHERS ASSOCIATION testified via the teleconference network. (Ms. Lanum's written remarks are on file.) She stated that Alaska PTA agrees with the removal of subsections 1(e) and 11(a). She asked that the original law regarding concealed weapons on school property remain in place. Representative Kelly noted that subsection 11(a) of work draft, 9-LS1139\S, 4/22/96, states that concealed handguns may not be carried on to school grounds or a school bus "other than while in a propelled vehicle, other than a school bus, and the permittee does not exit the vehicle". Ms. Lanum spoke in opposition to the language in 11(a). WENDY REDMOND, VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA spoke in support of deleting subsections 1(e) and 11(a). She observed that University of Alaska classrooms are not covered by the legislation since they are not included under the definition of "schools." She requested that concealed handguns be excluded from University of Alaska campus grounds or facilities except as provided by the Board of Regents policy. She noted that the Board of Regents currently allow guns on campus. There are secure places in each dorm for gun storage. Guns are allowed in locked cars. The University of Alaska does not support the policy of concealed weapons in classrooms. She emphasized that campuses are well protected. There are commissioned officers on campuses. She added that security forces and lighting have been increased. REPRESENTATIVE JOE GREEN stated that he is opposed to allowing concealed handguns on schools. He expressed support for the elimination of subsections 1(e) and 11(a). He stressed that if protection is needed that other measures should be taken. HELEN MERHRKENS, STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION noted that the Board unanimously opposes the concept of allowing concealed handguns on school grounds. She noted that the Board believes that all conditions directly related to the safety and health of public school students and staff are of utmost 7 importance. She added that the Board opposes concealed weapons in state operated public libraries. Representative Kelly asked Ms. Merhrkens for the rationale behind her objections. Ms. Merhrkens stated that testimony from parents indicated concern that there with guns on school property. She stated that parents do not want guns on school grounds unless they are part of an organized event. She stated that someone who brings a concealed handgun in a vehicle may illegally get out of the car with their gun. Representative Kelly expressed support for the ability of parents to carry concealed weapons in their cars on school grounds. He maintained that it would be a benefit to have parents with guns on school grounds in the case of an incident. Ms. Merhrkens stated that their preference is for trained law enforcement officers to respond to incidents on school grounds. Representative Martin noted the use of guns in rural areas. Ms. Merhrkens noted that the use of rifle ranges would not be prohibited under current law. (Tape Change, HFC 96-136, Side 1) Representative Kelly summarized that a handgun can be carried in the trunk if it is unloaded. DUANE BUELL, JUNEAU testified in SB 177. He stated that he supports any provision that relaxes restrictions on concealed handguns. He noted that permit holders from other states have to meet qualifications in their states. He asserted that "not one of the horror stories that (the Department of) Public Safety advanced as being a consequence of passing a concealed carry bill has come true in the last 16 months." He pointed out that the process assures that permit holders are law abiding responsible persons. He stressed that he wants the ability to defend himself if the need arises. He spoke against restrictions. Representative Kohring echoed the remarks of Mr. Buell. Representative Brown stated that a permittee can carry their weapon in a holster, unconcealed, in most of the areas that concealed weapons can not be carried. Mr. Buell argued that those that carry weapons in the open are a target for criminals. Mr. Huber noted that AS 11.61.220 A(4)(a) allows all unloaded firearms to be carried in a trunk or encased in a closed container in a motor vehicle. He clarified that 8 concealed handguns would be included under this provision. In response to a question by Representative Brown, Mr. Huber discussed section 3. He noted that current law prohibits anyone from carrying concealed handguns anyplace that has a beverage dispensary license. This includes restaurants. He noted that permit holders want to be able to go out to lunch with their weapons. He observed that there is no clear differentiation between restaurants and bars. He stated that it is already against the law and in statute to possess a firearm while intoxicated. He maintained that concealed handgun permit holders should be able to go in and out of normal businesses. He stressed that under an affirmative defense the defendant would have to prove that they have not consumed alcohol in the 8 hours previous to carrying a concealed weapon. He noted that a blood alcohol level of below .04 percent is the same as commercial driver's license. The first detectable level is .02 percent. Representative Brown noted that a loaded firearm could be concealed in a place where liquor is sold. Mr. Huber stated that the exception is for a loaded firearm in the possession of a permit holder who has not consumed or has no blood alcohol level greater than .04 percent. Mr. Huber explained that an affirmative defense states that the laws of the section pertain, however, an allowable exception is given if proof is made that the terms of the exception are met. He noted that the Department of Law did not support a direct offense. The burden of proof would be on the permit holder. Representative Brown asked if this provision would encourage persons to violate the law. Mr. Huber noted that one of the requirements for obtaining a permit is that the permittee have a clear explanation and study of the laws that pertain to the program. Representative Brown referred to subsections 11 (4) and (5). She asked why the existing language was deleted. Mr. Huber noted that testimony stressed that the firearm properly possessed by the permit holder is safer in their direct control than left in a car outside of their control. He maintained that permit holders are the most law abiding and responsible citizens. In response to a question by Representative Brown, Mr. Huber noted that subsection 11(8) received the most public testimony. Deletion of subsection 11(8) would allow concealed weapons to be carried in financial institutions or banks. He maintained that permit holders want to carry concealed weapons as protection to and from banks. 9 Representative Martin MOVED to adopt Amendment 1 (copy on file). Amendment 1 would provide that concealed handguns be excluded from the University of Alaska campus grounds or facilities except as provided by the Board of Regents policy. There being NO OBJECTION, it was so ordered. Representative Mulder MOVED to adopt committee substitute, Work Draft, 9-LS1139\S, dated 4\22\96 as amended by Amendment 1 (copy on file). Mr. Huber discussed changes in the committee substitute. Section 3 was changed to include the blood alcohol level. A blanket prohibition on health care providing facilities was deleted. He noted that individual facilities can set their own policy regarding concealed handguns. He added that reciprocity provisions were changed. There being NO OBJECTION, Work Draft, 9-LS1139\S, dated 4\22\96 as amended by Amendment 1 was adopted. Representative Mulder MOVED to adopt Amendment 2, 9- LS1139\S.1 (copy on file). Amendment 2 would delete "other than while in a propelled vehicle, other than a school bus, and the permittee does not exit the vehicle." Representative Kelly expressed opposition to Amendment 2, but acknowledged that there is strong support for the amendment among opponents of concealed handguns. Mr. Huber stated that the legislation would remain silent in regards to any provisions regarding schools with the adoption of Amendment 2. The current law disallowing concealed handguns on school property would remain. Representative Kelly noted that handguns could be carried unloaded in a trunk or container. In response to a question by Representative Mulder, Mr. Huber noted that if another state is honoring Alaska's permit, Alaska would honor their permit. He emphasized that other states also provide for a criminal background check and finger printing information. He noted that training provisions differ from state to state. Representative Mulder expressed concern that other states provide the same protection. DEL SMITH, DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY stated that he understood that other states would have to be as stringent as Alaska for reciprocity to exist. Co-Chair Foster MOVED to report HCS CSSB 177 (FIN) out of Committee with individual recommendations and with the accompanying fiscal notes. 10 Representative Brown OBJECTED for purposes of discussion. She maintained that handguns are a threat to our children. She asserted that the proliferation throughout society is troubling and a threat. She thought it was a mistake to expand areas concealed weapons can be carried. Representative Brown WITHDREW her Objection. There being NO OBJECTION, HCS CSSB 177 (FIN) was reported out of Committee. Representative Kohring maintained that expansion of handguns will provide greater safety to law abiding citizens. HCS CSSB 177 (FIN) was reported out of Committee with a "do pass" recommendation and with a fiscal impact note by the Department of Public Safety, dated 4\11\96; a zero fiscal note by the Department of Corrections, dated 3/26/96; and a zero fiscal note by the Department of Law, dated 3/6/96.