Earlier this spring, Alaska lawmakers attracted national attention when they introduced legislation that would allow for the arrest of federal agents charged with enforcing gun control laws. On Wednesday, the Senate passed a version of the bill that gets rid of the controversial provision.
The new version of the bill instead would prohibit the state and municipalities from using their resources to help implement federal gun control measures. It also orders the attorney general to block federal gun laws, and it says that firearms are not subject to federal regulation in Alaska.
Sen. John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, carried the bill in the Senate, and he said he liked the original idea of making it a felony to enforce federal gun control measures. But he said that putting that law on the books would invite too many legal problems.
“I just couldn’t see how it would play out practically,” said Coghill. “It would end up as a court battle generally.”
While the changes managed to secure some bipartisan support, a few members of the minority caucus still had some concerns. Sen. Hollis French of Anchorage offered a criticism that Democrats have frequently used against Republican bills this session: It’s unconstitutional. He also described language that would make gun control measures invalid in Alaska as overly broad.
“I wonder about bail conditions. Can a judge set bail conditions that separate a person from a gun during the pendency of a trial? Can a police officer separate a wrongdoer from his gun who is using it to commit a crime? It says here you can’t do that at all.”
Critics of the measure have also described such language as a form of nullification.
The bill ultimately passed 17 to 3, with Democrats Bill Wielechowski of Anchorage and Lyman Hoffman of Bethel joining the majority caucus to support the legislation. The legislation will now be sent back to the House to see if they agree with the modifications to the bill.
During that same floor session, the Senate also passed a resolution encouraging gun manufacturers to bring their businesses to Alaska. That measure received unanimous support.