Friday, May 06, 2005


A Senate committee is thinking of adding one more provision to an anti-gun-control bill. The proposed amendment would guarantee in state law that Alaskans have a right to carry and store weapons in their vehicle, even if there is a municipal law against it or their employer prohibits it. The legislation, which the House adopted overwhelmingly April 12, would prohibit cities and boroughs from imposing any gun control laws more restrictive than the state. Backers say one set of gun laws statewide would protect Alaskans from running afoul of a local gun law more limiting than state law.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Ralph Seekins, R-Fairbanks, is considering amending the bill to ensure no one is barred from keeping a gun in a locked vehicle. He told committee members last week he wants to avoid the possibility that an employer or other property owner could bar firearms from parked cars, just as some property owners prohibit guns in their buildings. "My wife will commonly carry a weapon in her vehicle," especially if she is taking a road trip, Seekins said. "It's not uncommon for a .44 Magnum to be sitting in the console of her (Lincoln) Navigator."

Because most local governments and some businesses ban guns from their offices and stores, the state needs to guarantee that no one can bar gun owners from leaving their weapon in a locked vehicle, Seekins said.

Brian Judy, the Sacramento, Calif.-based lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, gave this testimony on the subject: "Once a person leaves their home to go to work in the morning, if they can't keep a firearm locked in their vehicle in the parking lot, then they're basically disarmed on their way to work, they're disarmed at lunch if they go out running errands, they're disarmed on their way home."

Seekins did not present a formal amendment to the committee, which was expected to consider the bill again this week.

Local government officials testified against the bill in the House, arguing cities and boroughs should have the right to regulate firearm use within their boundaries. But the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said Alaskans should not have to worry about local laws more restrictive than the state law.

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It began last week when two Lodi residents captured two burglary suspects on their property and held them at gunpoint until Sheriff's deputies arrived. The case continued when Lodi Police detectives served search warrants at the suspects' homes and seized 80 pieces of property, including guns, computers, financial documents and possible bomb ingredients. "These guys have been busy," Detective Ken Slater said Monday of three suspects now in custody.

Police believe they have linked Kenneth Samuel Cotraro, 35, of Lodi, to at least five local burglaries. Cotraro and Richard Dean Davis, 35, also of Lodi, were arrested Tuesday morning when two Lower Sacramento Road residents found the men in a shed, according to the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department. Later that day, deputies met with Lodi detectives to compare notes on the property recovered when the two men were arrested. Lodi detectives then searched Cotraro's home in the 1200 block of South School Street and found what they believe was property stolen during several business burglaries.

They also found neo-Nazi paraphernalia, a gun and a sword, along with a mix of gunpowder and various ammunition that bomb experts said are typically used to make pipe bombs, Slater said Monday. Police also found several computers, printers and financial documents that had allegedly been stolen in several Lodi burglaries. In the garage, they found a large $2,000 laser printer, which matched one stolen in an April burglary at Blue Shield, according to police.

Detectives then served another warrant in the 700 block of Lincoln Avenue on Friday, where they arrested resident Clinton Earl Irons, 28, on suspicion of possession of stolen property and counterfeiting. All told, police seized property valued at more than $7,600, including five computers and a number of printers, as well as two swords and two guns. Police linked the property to five burglary cases, Slater said. Some items taken in the burglaries, including a large doll collection and other computer accessories, are still missing, he said.


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