Senate passes bill to allow concealed firearms, knives on University of Alaska campuses
The Alaska Senate passed a bill Thursday that would allow concealed weapons on University of Alaska campuses, including in dorm rooms.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator Pete Kelly, said Senate Bill 174 recognized a conflict that begged to be resolved between students’ right to carry concealed weapons and the university’s current policy.
“The policy of the University of Alaska is to say, OK, concealed carry is available to the rest of the state, but not on our campus,” he said. “And for them to do that, they do it in a manner to achieve, they have said, the safety, it’s a safety issue with them. But of course we have seen that declaring an area a gun free zone and achieving safety are not connected in any way.”
Minority Leader Sen. Berta Gardner urged colleagues not to adopt the bill, which has received strong opposition from students and the University of Alaska’s board of regents, citing an opinion delivered by the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in which he cited sensitive areas like school and government buildings in which concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld, despite the second Amendment.
“The University of Alaska’s a government building, it’s also a school,” said Gardner. “The Alaska State Capitol is a government building, why do we think it’s incumbent on us not to allow the board of regents to regulate their buildings in the same way our own?”
In an interview after the vote, Sen. Kelly said allowing guns into the capitol building could be a next step.
“I wouldn’t doubt that you’ll see some bills in the future on different areas, that’s not necessarily going to come from me, it’s possible,” said Kelly, who said his bill could only address “one thing at a time.”
“Whether there’s irony or hypocrisy that’s irrelevant. The fact is, is that the university was in conflict with our statutes and our constitution, and one at a time we take back that ground,” said Kelly.
Callie Conerton, student body president with the University of Alaska Southeast campus, said she’s disappointed by the Senate’s vote.
“I’m hoping that we have a strong support in the House against the bill,” said Conerton, who said she personally will feel less safe on campus knowing that people around her could be carrying a gun.
“If they feel like someone did something to them wrong they can pull it out and it’s right there, it’s at their access. They might not think that they’re going to use it in that way,” Conerton said. “The escalation is very quick on different college campuses, like it is on the Senate floor, escalation happens very quickly, and we don’t want to see that guns being really easily accessible.”
SB 174 passed the senate with a vote of 13 to 5. A senior state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association is in Juneau this week and was present at the Senate floor session.
If the bill becomes law, Alaska would become the tenth state to allow concealed carry on campuses, among Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.
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