Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/23/1996 04:00 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 177 CONCEALED HANDGUN PERMIT AMENDMENTS BRETT HUBER, legislative aide to Senator Green, prime sponsor of SB 177, stated the measure proposes to revise Alaska's concealed handgun permit program (CHP) in order to provide a more streamlined, cost-efficient process for obtaining a permit, and provides greater latitude for law-abiding citizens to exercise their right to carry concealed weapons under their permits. Public testimony has been very supportive to the reduction in permit cost, the removal of limitations on where permit holders are allowed to carry, and the allowance of reciprocity agreements with other states. Permit holders are required to meet program application criteria, submit to fingerprinting and background checks, receive professional training on the use of, and laws relating to, firearms, and display competency in the use of a firearm. He reviewed a sectional analysis of the legislation. SENATOR ADAMS discussed his opposition to reducing permit fees because those fees could be used to cover the costs of investigating and fingerprinting permit applicants. MR. HUBER replied it is not the sponsor's intent to subsidize this program from other funds, but instead to limit the fees to cover the application process. Currently the fee cap is $125; the FBI charges $24 for fingerprint checks, $35 is assigned to DPS for the Alaska Automated Fingerprinting and Investigation System (AAFIS) check, and the remainder of $63 is used by DPS for the administrative costs of issuing permits. When SB 177 moved out of the State Affairs Committee, it moved with a memo to the Senate Finance Committee requesting review of DPS' actual administrative costs to determine the cost of covering this process only. Number 451 SENATOR ADAMS felt the potential for abuse in this area, resulting from improper investigation, is of concern. SENATOR LEMAN commented the State Affairs Committee attempted to get specific information from DPS without success. He believed the fee of $125 to be excessive, but was unsure whether $65 to be an accurate cost. MR. HUBER noted DPS has provided a breakdown of program receipts and how those receipts are spent, but the amount includes more than the cost of the permitting process for concealed weapons. Other functions such as sexual offender registration, security guard licensing, and commercial drivers licensing are included. SENATOR TAYLOR noted DPS is conducting background checks for other programs at one price, but charges a significantly different price for CHP investigations, and cannot justify that difference. MR. HUBER stated DPS charges all program applicants the same amount for FBI and AAFIS checks but the office that houses all of those programs is funded by program receipts from the CHP program alone. SENATOR GREEN indicated there is a fee amount of $63 that is charged to the CHP applicant that is not justified. SENATOR TAYLOR noted the Senate Finance Committee will review that aspect of the legislation. With respect to Senator Adams' concerns, SENATOR GREEN stated if the DPS can justify the $125 fee, she will support that amount, however until it is justified, she will not. SENATOR ADAMS stated he is opposed to carrying concealed handguns, and asked what existing problems warrant changes to the current program. He expressed concern that under this legislation a person with a concealed weapon could enter a domestic violence shelter housing his battered wife. He believed enough time has not passed to determine if the current law, which passed recently, is working as intended. He commented handguns are handled much more frequently than rifles, yet handgun training programs do not adequately address the frequency of handling. MR. HUBER agreed a permitted handgun carrier could bring a concealed weapon into a domestic violence shelter, however a person without a permit could legally carry a handgun into that same shelter today, as long as the handgun is not concealed. SENATOR ADAMS believed a person would be stopped faster if the handgun was exposed. TESS LANUM, Vice President of legislation for the Alaska PTA, testified in opposition to SB 177. The PTA believes allowing deadly weapons on school grounds will hinder their endeavor to protect children from harm. The children of Alaska should be able to attend school knowing that the lawmakers of this state would not allow anything deadly onto their school's property, and parents should feel their children are secure while attending school. The State of Alaska leads the nation in per capita firearm injuries and deaths. According to the Division of Vital Statistics, the number of firearm-related deaths has continued to rise since 1990. The injury or death of any student can be prevented if lawmakers prohibit guns on school property. Over 122,000 students attend school in Alaska. The PTA believes that the 4000 permitholders inconvenienced because they cannot bring guns on school property does not warrant this legislation. MS. LANUM repeated the lives, safety and well being of the children of Alaska are no less important than the lives of people who work in other facilities where guns are prohibited. Number 319 SENATOR TAYLOR asked Mr. Lanum how many schools in Alaska have rifle or pistol teams. MS. LANUM did not know how many exist. SENATOR TAYLOR stated such training programs could not be accommodated if guns were prohibited from school grounds completely. MS. LANUM responded the difference between a training program is that everyone is aware of the program, an instructor is available, and students are learning about firearms. If SB 177 passes, no one will know who is entering school grounds with a concealed handgun. The PTA's concern is one of safety. Number 281 SENATOR TAYLOR stated under current law nothing prevents a person from carrying an exposed weapon onto school grounds. MS. LANUM replied in Kenai, a person cannot have a gun in plain view on school property. MR. HUBER explained the existing prohibition on school grounds for firearms, other than for specific range use, requires weapons to be unloaded and in a case. SENATOR GREEN commented that a person who, through profession, needs to carry a gun, must expose the handgun when on school grounds, which is awkward for people merely dropping children off at school. She believed current restrictions on law abiding, trained, permitholders to be onerous. MS. LANUM agreed it is an inconvenience for that small group of people, but accidents occur, guns and children don't belong together, and school should be a safe haven. SENATOR MILLER stated he understood the PTA's concerns, but the group of 4,000 permitholders are not the people that are cause for concern; non-permitholders are. SENATOR TAYLOR commented permitholders receive more safety training than many police officers. MS. LANUM reiterated there are over 122,000 students in Alaskan schools whose safety should come first, as opposed to only 4,019 permitholders who might be inconvenienced by the school ground prohibition. SENATOR TAYLOR asked if a huge drop in drug use occurred after drug-free school zone signs were posted. MS. TANUM did not know. SENATOR TAYLOR believed those signs to be no more than a token attempt to remedy the drug problem, which has worsened. Testimony on other legislation has revealed that gang members in schools are dealing drugs and carrying guns. MS. TANUM stated no one believed sign posting would eradicate drug use but it was done to advocate the prevention of drug use. SENATOR TAYLOR asserted it might be safer to have a person with a permitted handgun on school grounds if a deranged individual entered the school ground. MS. TANUM did not believe it likely both would be on school grounds simultaneously. SENATOR TAYLOR felt opposition to SB 177 centers around classifying permitholders in the same category as irresponsible gun owners. MS. TANUM stated the problem is that guns are deadly and do not belong around children. SENATOR MILLER commented that people kill people; many different weapons can be used. Number 152 JANE WINEINGER, representing the NRA, testified in support of SB 177 for the following reasons. Changes incorporated in the legislation solidly reflect the NRA's concerns with the current law. Individuals cannot rely on others for personal safety, and need to protect themselves. Current restrictions are a burden on all law-abiding citizens, who do not take the permit system lightly. A lot of hysterical commentary exists about SB 177, which is not factual. Schools and hospitals do not assume liability for employee safety, therefore those employees must arrange for their own safety. This bill will not change criminal behavior, as those people do not follow the law anyway. She described a situation in a school in Central Washington in which three people were killed and one injured by a deranged 14 year old. The right to live and be secure from personal attack is one of the most fundamental rights of human beings. According to the Department of Justice, 87 percent of all violent crime happens outside the home. Having the right to carry a firearm without arduous restrictions gives the honest citizen, especially women, freedom to leave their homes and provide protection for their families and themselves, a necessity since the Supreme Court has ruled that local law enforcement has no duty to protect a particular person, but only a general duty to enforce the law. Law-abiding citizens must be given an even chance against predators who do not abide by any laws or apply for permits. The passage of SB 177 gives people a tool for self- protection. Number 055 SENATOR ADAMS asked for statistics on the number of crimes committed by people with permits. MS. WINEINGER estimated less than one percent of permits have been revoked, some because permitholders left the state. She added in no state is the amount over one percent. SENATOR GREEN affirmed leaving the state is cause for revocation. MR. HUBER commented that as of December, 1995, DPS reported one permit revocation out of 3,154 permits and none of the revocations in the state have ever resulted from the misuse of a weapon. SENATOR ELLIS asked Ms. Wineinger if she was suggesting in her testimony that the bill should be amended to allow teachers and other staff to carry guns to stop violent incidents. MS. WINEINGER replied she thinks the bill is adequate as is, and her comments were directed to the possibility that permitholders might prevent a violent incident, rather than cause one. SENATOR GREEN discussed a proposed bill last year that prohibited carrying a weapon within one hundred yards of school grounds, which raised questions regarding whether it would be criminal to carry a gun on private property abutting school grounds or in vehicles passing schools. SB 177 was drafted to clarify where a concealed weapon can be carried and to ensure a concealed weapon can remain concealed, rather than require the permitholder to expose it when unnecessary. SENATOR ELLIS commented on the example of the teacher pulling out a gun to shoot the deranged 14 year old that suggested further amendments to the bill. SENATOR GREEN stated it is particularly interesting that in Ms. Wineinger's training classes, teachers, nurses, and women who do shift work, want to carry concealed weapons. MS. WINEINGER noted her training classes include a high percentage of teachers concerned about their safety. TAPE TWO, SIDE A Number 000 LARRY WIGET, Director of Government Relations for the Anchorage School District, testified in opposition to the section of the bill that allows concealed weapons to be carried onto school grounds. The Anchorage School District has a policy opposing such activity with strict rules and penalties and the municipality has an ordinance in opposition also. SENATOR GREEN asked if Mr. Wiget was aware that SB 177 does not allow anyone of school age to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds. He replied he was. HARLAN KNUDSON, representing the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association, requested that hospitals and nursing homes be added to Section 12 of SB 177. SENATOR GREEN questioned current policy regarding hospitals. MR. KNUDSON responded under current law it is unclear whether posting a sign on hospital or nursing home grounds prohibiting the carrying of a concealed weapon would be enforceable. MR. HUBER explained that the Attorney General's Office has prepared a legal opinion on that question (7/12/95) and concluded the state's criminal trespass laws can be used to arrest and prosecute a person who possesses a concealed handgun on private businesses premises if a notice has been posted. Number 089 SENATOR ADAMS asked if inclusion of Mr. Knudson's requested language would hurt the bill in any way. MR. HUBER replied permitholders face a misdemeanor violation as opposed to non- permitholders who face a trespass violation. The misdemeanor violation is more serious, therefore permitholders are singled out as a separate class of people in violation beyond that of people carrying exposed weapons. The sponsor believes permitholders should not be discriminated against for qualifying and obtaining a permit. SENATOR ADAMS requested a copy of the legal opinion. MOE McGEE, Director of Anchorage Municipal Libraries, stated the only weapons appropriate in libraries are words. CURTIS GREEN testified in support of SB 177, as the issue is a matter of freedom and common sense. He believed the permit process should be as unrestrictive as possible because only law-abiding citizens will apply; dishonest people will not. KATE TESAR, representing the Inland Boatmens' Union of the Pacific, discussed the current ferry policy regarding the carrying of concealed weapons on marine highway vessels. To ensure passenger safety, only unloaded firearms are allowed on vessels; ammunition is stowed separate from firearms. Unloaded firearms may be securely locked in a passenger's vehicle, other legal weapons brought aboard by walk-on passengers must be checked with the ship's personnel. The Inland Boatmen's Union is satisfied with its current policy and asked the committee to amend SB 177 to enable the Marine Highway to continue this policy. SENATOR TAYLOR stated he intends to offer an amendment which would allow the Marine Highway system to operate under the same regulations it currently follows. RAYMOND CARR, an instructor for the NRA's Personal Protection Program since 1985, testified in support of SB 177. He commented that 25 percent of people who contact him for training choose not to apply for a permit when they learn of the restrictions. He believed SB 177 will alleviate potential applicants' concerns. He also supported the reciprocity provision with other states. He suggested simplifying Section 9 to decrease costs. He disagreed with the deletion of the maximum caliber requirement in SB 177, because applicants need to be trained in the use of such guns if they plan to handle them. SENATOR ADAMS asked the cost of an NRA training course. MR. CARR replied the cost is $120 which includes the class, fingerprinting and a photo I.D. PATTY OWEN, representing herself as a concerned parent, stated she agrees with the PTA's position. She opposed simplifying the permit process and the removal of restrictions on where concealed handguns can be carried, particularly in places where children congregate. No precaution is too much to take when it comes to the safety of children. Laws should not be changed because they inconvenience people, and it is an undue burden on her to post a sign prohibiting concealed weapons on her property. She asked for clarification of whether it is a criminal offense to ignore a posted sign on private property. She disagreed with decreasing fees to allow the needy to carry concealed weapons. She believed if self-defense is the issue, other less-deadly methods should be used. She stated her support for existing law. Number 288 JAYNE ANDREEN, representing the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, testified in opposition to SB 177. The Council is most concerned about the removal of the prohibition of concealed weapons in facilities that provide services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Many domestic violence offenders are "law-abiding citizens" who do not have criminal records, and would be eligible for a concealed weapon permit. It is vitally important that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have a safe place to go. SENATOR GREEN informed Ms. Andreen of the Attorney General's Opinion regarding enforceability when signs are posted. CLAUDIA DOUGLAS, President of NEA Alaska, expressed concern about the portion of the bill which allows concealed weapons to be carried on school grounds. She asked whether a school district could enforce a policy if signs were posted prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons within the district. SENATOR TAYLOR stated most schools are bordered by public streets. He felt the practical problem of determining whether a permitholder, escorting a child to school, would have to remove a concealed weapon if he/she stepped off of a public sidewalk onto school property to be too cumbersome. He asked how "school grounds" are defined. MS. DOUGLAS replied there is an actual boundary around a school. MS. DOUGLAS stated the NEA's concern is the potential for mischief and accidents that could happen if concealed guns are carried onto school property. SENATOR TAYLOR questioned the number of illegally concealed weapons and drugs in schools right now. He believed mechanisms used to ensure student and teacher safety to be ineffective and noted background checks required of permit applicants are more extensive than those required of teachers. SENATOR GREEN expressed frustration that people continue to confuse criminals with law-abiding permitholders. She stated this bill is designed to allow people who may carry large sums of money and work in dangerous neighborhoods to protect themselves. She emphasized a person can carry an exposed gun anywhere without a permit. SENATOR ELLIS stated it only takes one crime to become a non-law- abiding citizen and there is no guarantee that because a person passed a test he/she will not commit a crime. SENATOR MILLER replied the statistical odds are against that occurring. BELINDA DANIELS, a member of the NEA Board of Directors, opposed changes in the language in Section 12 of the committee substitute. She believed people need the assurance of knowing that in airline terminals, government offices, public buildings, or the Alaska Marine Highway, no one has the right to carry a concealed weapon. Removing that restriction makes society more unsafe. In 1991 the teachers' association worked closely with the School District to develop a policy that contains concrete consequences to promote zero tolerance for any weapons on school grounds in response to an increase in the incidents of students bringing weapons to school. Signs have been posted in schools, clearly outlining the policy. SENATOR TAYLOR asked what the consequences are. MS. DANIELS stated a student caught with a gun on school grounds can be expelled. She stressed the importance of prevention rather than punitive action, since junior high school students emulate adults, therefore may bring parent's permitted handguns to school. CHRIS SULLIVAN, a permitholder, testified in support of SB 177. The NRA has a program to train young people about safe gun handling, and emphasizes that rather than touch a gun if found, tell an adult. He did not agree with MS. TANUM, and believed a child should feel safest in his/her own home. He questioned why teachers are afraid of permitholders, since obtaining a permit has never caused anyone to commit a crime. He believes drunk drivers cause a lot more damage than permitted handgun holders. SENATOR TAYLOR offered amendment #1, which ensures that both federal and state laws are incorporated in the promulgation of regulations regarding the ferry system. There being no objection, amendment #1 was adopted. SENATOR GREEN moved for adoption of amendment #2 which addresses reciprocity. The amendment would allow DPS to issue a permit to a person holding a valid permit issued by another state, if that state allows Alaska permitholders reciprocity, as determined by the DPS. SENATOR ADAMS asked if other states would have to have a law identical to Alaska's. SENATOR TAYLOR stated they are all a bit different. SENATOR ELLIS asked if another state had lesser standards, whether those standards would be accepted by DPS. SENATOR GREEN explained that if the other state recognized Alaska's provisions, Alaska would recognize that state's. SENATOR TAYLOR clarified it would be up to DPS to decide whether the standards of another state were acceptable. SENATOR ADAMS objected to adoption of amendment #2 because a representative of the DPS was not available to answer questions. He asked Mr. Huber to provide committee members with additional information on amendment #2. MR. HUBER stated the program would be similar to drivers license agreements. A person driving in another state is required to follow the laws of that state when driving there. SENATOR ADAMS stated he is more concerned about the standards a permitholder was required to meet to obtain a permit. A roll call vote was taken on amendment #2. The motion carried with Senators Miller, Green, and Taylor voting "yea," and Senators Ellis and Adams voting "nay." SENATOR ELLIS voiced his opposition to the lack of information available about amendment #2 prior to its adoption. SENATOR GREEN noted the DPS was agreeable to the reciprocity arrangement. SENATOR ELLIS asked if DPS has full discretion to determine which states have reciprocity. SENATOR GREEN replied affirmatively. SENATOR TAYLOR agreed the standards required of other states accepted by DPS should be made available to committee members and requested Mr. Huber to provide that information. SENATOR GREEN moved SB 177 as amended from committee with individual recommendations. SENATOR ADAMS objected. The motion carried with Senators Taylor, Green and Miller voting "yea," and Senators Adams and Ellis voting "nay." The meeting was adjourned.