Down in Idaho, college students are protesting a bill that would allow guns on campus. Here in Alaska, they’re drafting the legislation.
Hans Rodvik, a political science major at the University of Alaska Anchorage, presented the firearms bill on Monday, and he said the idea came from a number of student groups.
“During the fall 2013 semester, a diverse array of students, including myself, from the College Republicans, Young Americans for Liberty, and the Political Science Association came together to analyze what issues these three clubs could join together on and help change,” Rodvik told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The University’s Board of Regents banned concealed carry in 1995. Guns are only allowed on campus in a very limited sense – they must be kept in special lockers or left in the parking lot in a locked car.
Rodvik, who is interning for Sen. John Coghill (R-North Pole), thinks that infringes on a student’s constitutional right to bear arms.
“We concluded that the current situation surrounding firearms on campus was unacceptable and committed to change it,” said Rodvik.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly mention concealed carry, it blocks the Board of Regents from regulating guns and knives in all but two cases. It does allow them to stop people from shooting firearms in areas where humans, domestic animals, or property are at risk. The regents can also prohibit firearms in “restricted access areas” under the bill.
While the legislation is a priority for some students, the president of the university system has some concerns.
Pat Gamble opened his testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee by touting his own experience with guns.
“I’ve been carrying a gun by myself since I was nine years old. Carried two guns in Vietnam every day, an AR-15 and a .38, which I used on several occasions. I shot expert in pistol and rifle, and continued to shoot all through my time in the Air Force that way – never less. Had a custom-grip Beretta, a .38 that I carried as a general officer. Shot it regularly, went through a number of training courses both indoors and outdoors,” said Gamble. “So, I’m pretty familiar with weapons.”
Gamble emphasized his support for the Second Amendment, but said the state still could regulate firearms for the good of the public. He noted that guns are also prohibited at elementary schools and high schools with the goal of protecting young students.
That creates a tension with this bill, since those same children often visit University of Alaska campuses for classes and summer programs.
“We protect them in the schools. Do we protect them when they’re on the campus? I think the answer is yes,” said Gamble.
Gamble told the Judiciary Committee that getting rid of the gun ban would require the University to increase security on its 16 campuses. He says it would be such a big and expensive project that he would want to consult with private security outfits with experience in the Middle East.
And even if security were ramped up, Gamble thinks the University would still need to stop inviting minors onto its campuses.
“I will sit here and tell you right now: I cannot protect the campus if the K-through-12 kids are on there,” said Gamble.
The bill will receive another hearing on Wednesday.
Since the Legislature first convened last year, 10 separate bills and resolutions concerning firearms have been introduced. Half of them have passed.