Alaska legislators weigh in on gun control in wake of latest school shootings

Gun control legislation has historically remained an unpopular subject for lawmakers to tackle in Alaska.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 7:29 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska was shocked by a school shooting 25 years ago, but recent incidents of gun violence across the country have prompted discussions about gun control measures in the state.

This week’s Covenant School shooting left six people dead, prompting legislators to address the issue of school safety.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Alaska had a firearm death rate of 19.3 per 100,000 people in 2019 — higher than the national average of 11.7 per 100,000, but lower than some other states like Louisiana, Mississippi and Missouri.

Rep. Shelley Hughes (R-Palmer, Knik-Fairview) said in a written statement that she supports a range of measures to improve school safety, including more school resource officers, staff with concealed carry certification for school environments and regular training on drills with school resource officers, staff and local law enforcement.

Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) wrote that he supports all efforts to protect a citizen’s constitutional right to life under the Fifth and 14th Amendments. While Josephson doesn’t support arming teachers, he is in favor of considering the placement of police officers in schools as an alternative.

Former legislator Geran Tarr supported “red flag” laws for Alaska, which would allow law enforcement to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals who pose a risk to themselves or others. Although Tarr’s bill failed, she still believes there is common ground for both sides of the debate.

“I’m not offended by someone’s strong Second Amendment rights, I’m not concerned if you have a lot of guns at home, you use your guns for hunting, for safety,” Tarr said. “My only concern — and that’s where we can come together, I think, as gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. It’s a very, very small percentage of people we’re worried about.”

Tarr believes red flag laws could combat gun-related suicides. She said if crafted thoughtfully, the laws do not necessarily infringe on the right to bear arms.

“I don’t want a policy that could be misused, I want a policy that works. So one way we address that is you can actually make it a misdemeanor crime for a false report,” Tarr said.

The conversation about gun control is complex and ongoing, but legislators across the nation are actively considering various measures to improve school safety and protect the rights of citizens. As the debate continues, it remains to be seen what changes, if any, will be made to Alaska’s gun laws.

The topic of gun control is a contentious issue in the United States, with arguments for and against stricter gun laws.

Some argue that gun control measures are necessary to prevent gun violence and protect public safety, while others believe that such measures infringe upon their Second Amendment-protected right to bear arms. Ultimately the decision on whether to implement gun control laws in Alaska or any other state is up to lawmakers and the public.