The Alaska campus carry bill, SB 174, has passed out of committee and may be voted on in the Senate this week. It has been amended to reform some of the abuses of power by the Board of Regents. It offers improvements over the current Board of Regents regulatory scheme.
It includes the Board of Regents as an entity preempted by the Legislature from infringing on Alaskans' rights to keep and bear arms.
The legislature goes a long way to deal with the Board of Regents' concerns, granting many of their requests without giving them the absolute power and immunity they seek. The Board would have been well served by happily accepting the amendments that were placed in SB 174 in the Judiciary committee; instead, they demanded absolute power.
The current version of the bill denies them that power. Here are some highlights. From state.ak.us:
The legislature finds that the individual right to keep and bear arms is a constitutionally protected right under art. I, sec. 19, Constitution of the State of Alaska, and may not be abridged by the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska. The legislature reserves to the state the authority to regulate firearms, except as specifically provided in AS 14.40.173.
The opening paragraph clears up any ambiguity as to who is in charge in Alaska; it is first, the Constitution, then, as limited by the Constitution, the Legislature, not the Board of Regents. Then SB 174 goes on to spell out what the Board of Regents may and may not do, under the authority of the Legislature:
Sec. 14.40.173. Regulation of firearms and knives.
(a) The authority to regulate firearms and knives is reserved to the state, and, except as specifically provided by statute, the Board of Regents may not enact or enforce a policy regulating the possession, ownership, use, carrying, registration, storage, or transportation of firearms or knives.It remains to be seen if "regulating" as worded above will be abused and taken to mean "banning" by the Board of Regents. If SB 174 passes, we will find out.
(b) The Board of Regents may not regulate the possession, ownership, use, carrying, registration, storage, or transportation of concealed handguns or knives, except
(1) in a manner identical to state law;
(2) in student dormitories or other shared living quarters; or
(3) in restricted access areas under (c)(3) of this section.
(c) The Board of Regents may adopt and enforce policies
(1) regulating the carrying of openly carried firearms;
The law provides for reasonable regulation of the discharge of firearms. It also carves out a way for students in dormitories to possess arms for their defense, as clarified as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court under Heller and McDonald.
The dormitory section allows for tight regulation. Universities could require arms to be locked up when not carried. Those restrictions would be slightly less restrictive than the current absolute ban. It is hard to see the reason for either the ban or regulation allowed under SB 174; just outside university borders, no such restrictions are deemed necessary, and are forbidden under the state preemption law.
The bill provides for a long list of places which the University may designate as restricted access areas. From the bill:
"restricted access area" means the area beyond a secure point where visitors are screened and does not include common areas of ingress and egress open to the public.This follows current thought on realistic restrictions under the Second Amendment. If people are to be prevented from carrying arms in "sensitive" areas, as a practical matter, something more than a mere sign is necessary.
The bill retains a blanket immunity from lawsuit for the implementation of the rules about guns and knives created under SB 174, if it passes. From the bill:
(g) 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.This is strong protection for the Board of Regents and the University. It is powerful, and gives them far more protection than they currently have.
SB 174, in its current form, grants the Board of Regents considerable power they do not officially have at present. It gives them strong immunity from lawsuit. In return are slight modifications of existing rules to respect the Alaskan Constitution and the Second Amendment at minimum levels. If the Board of Regents rejects this compromise, they risk losing all power to regulate in this area. Lawsuits based on the Alaska Constitution, the Second Amendment, and strong Alaskan preemption law could require their regulations to be no different than Alaskan municipalities.
No municipality in Alaska has the power to regulate the open carry of arms; no municipality has the power to require defensive handguns to be locked up in a residence when not carried on the person.
The Board of Regents would be wise to accept this compromise. It may be the best they will obtain.
An alternative might be to simply add "universities" to municipalities in the preemption law. It may have been an oversight in the original preemption law. Including universities with other subdivisions of Alaskan government would be a clean and simple fix to the current intransigence of the Board of Regents.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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