Legislature(1995 - 1996)

02/23/1996 04:00 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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                
 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            
 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-                 
 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             
 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           
 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                  
 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.            

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