|Entrance to University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Thompson Dr.|
Alaska instituted a ban on concealed carry sometime after statehood in 1959. They reformed the law to a shall issue permit system in 1994. The University of Alaska instituted a no weapons policy in 1995. Alaska was the first state to restore permitless carry in 2003. It added a strong pre-emption law forbidding government entities from enacting law more restrictive than state law, about 10 years ago.
The National Conference of State Legislators claims that 23 states allow campuses to decide for themselves whether to ban concealed weapons or not. They include Alaska on that list. Their claim does not match the Alaskan Constitution or the Alaskan preemption law.
I started searching Alaskan statutes to find the supposed exception that allowed the Board of Regents to ban firearms and knives on campus. I could not find it. I contacted the sponsor of the the campus carry bill, Senator Pete Kelly. His staff was quite helpful, and sent this statement:
The statement is precisely consistent with what I found in Alaska statutes. However, in the Judiciary committee, several amendments were added to SB 174, at the request of the Board of Regents. There are three specific areas that grant enormous power to the board; power that no other entity in Alaska has, with the possible exception of the legislature. Even the legislature's power is limited by the Alaska and Federal Constitutions. Here are the three sections of SB 174 as it came out of the Judiciary committee.It’s true that there is no criminal statute against carrying a firearm on university premises. Of the prohibited areas outlined in Alaska Statutes 11.61.220, you will not find any references to post-secondary premises. However, since 1995 the University Of Alaska Board Of Regents have enforced a weapons policy that disallows weapons on campus under threat of administrative sanction. In the Alaska Constitution, Article I, Section 19 states: "A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State" [emphasis added]. Our office believes that the University’s policy stands in contradiction to the constitution. However, in the years that have followed since the policy was first enacted it has not been challenged in court.Since persons that choose to conceal carry tend to be highly law-abiding, regardless of the policy’s constitutionality, it still has the general effect of disarming law-abiding Alaskans. Few students and faculty would be willing to place their educational future or employment by circumventing the policy. Senate Bill 174 acknowledges that the power to place any limitations on that right rests only with Alaskans’ democratically elected and accountable members of their state legislature, and those limitation shall be narrowly tailored to meet a compelling governmental interest by the least restrictive means possible.
The Legislature grants the Board of Regents the power to ban the open carry of firearms and knives. No city in Alaska has that power. Even the State has never had that power.
(c) The Board of Regents may adopt and enforce policies
14 (1) regulating the possession, ownership, use, carrying, registration,
15 storage, and transportation of openly carried firearms and knives;
There is an unprecedented grant of immunity:
(f) The University of Alaska, the Board of Regents, and any officers, employees, or agents of the University of Alaska are immune from civil liability for any act or omission resulting from a policy or regulation adopted or enforced under this section by the Board of Regents or the president of the University of Alaska, or a claim arising from the possession, ownership, use, carrying, registration, or transportation of firearms or knives by any person.The immunity might be understandable if the legislature were taking away power from the Board of Regents; but they are granting power to the Board, not taking it away.
Finally, the Board of Regents is granted the power to ban firearms and knives from residences, a right specifically mentioned as fundamental in the U.S. v Heller Supreme Court decision. Banning guns in dormitories seems a direct violation of that right.
(3) in student dormitories or other shared living quartersSenator Kelly was busy with the state budget negotiations. He is co-chair of the finance committee, so he was not able to comment on these amendments to his bill in time for this article. I hope to obtain his comments next week.
As a former lobbyist for the University of Alaska, his bill did not initially grant the Board of Regents the enormous power that the amendments added in the Judiciary committee do. No city in Alaska can ban open carry; no municipal officials have the sweeping immunity granted in the current version of the bill. No municipality can ban firearms and knives from residences.
Senator Kelly's clear position is that the Board of Regents does not have those powers and immunities now. The bill as amended, grants the Board of Regents the power to ban open carry. It grants sweeping immunity from lawsuit from all citizens; in return, the administrative penalties for students and staff who conceal carry firearms and knives is removed for limited areas, but not for possession where they live on campus.