Legislature passes bill that protects gun shops under emergency declaration

Legislature passes bill that protects gun shops under emergency declaration
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 6:21 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - During the final days of the 33rd Alaska State Legislature regular session, lawmakers from both the House and Senate passed a bill that protects gun stores from being shut down during an emergency declaration.

House Bill 61 — described as “an Act relating to restrictions on firearms and other weapons” — was first introduced to the House by Representatives Cathy Tilton, Kevin McCabe, and Sarah Vance in February. On Tuesday Senator Scott Kawasaki backed the bill on the Senate Floor, citing temporary closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In Alaska we have a strong belief in individualism and the right to bear arms,” Kawasaki said. “Both cannabis shops and alcohol dispensing stores were deemed essential — therefore allowed to open — gun shops, for a brief time, were not.”

Kawasaki referenced five other states — Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, and Ohio — which have already passed similar measures over emergency powers, and said gun store closures could potentially create safety and law enforcement concerns by pushing buyers to shop on the black market.

Also speaking in support of the bill was Sen. Mike Shower, who discussed the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans when the government confiscated personal firearms from civilians in the area.

“We have to guard against this mentality of doing what we think is best, but we’re actually hurting people at the wrong time,” Shower said. “Preventing the ability of a government to take away people’s fundamental right — which actually is in the constitution — but at a time when they most desperately need it is something we need to be really cognizant of Mr. President, because it has happened before in this country.”

Sen. Jesse Kiehl disapproved of the bill and ultimately voted against it, saying that it undermined other constitutional amendments.

“This bill elevates, in Alaska law, the second amendment above all the rest of rights,” Kiehl said.

HB 61 has moved out of both the House and Senate, and will now head to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk to be signed into law.