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Alaska Further Protects Second Amendment

AK gun stores to stay open during emergencies

The government response to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 saw the largest expansion in state power since, at least, The Patriot Act in 2001. Red state and blue state governments alike, with a few notable exceptions, took unprecedented steps in an attempt to ‘slow the spread’ of the deadly coronavirus. Governors, taking cues from members of the Donald Trump administration, most notably Doctors Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, closed down businesses deemed ‘non-essential’ under penalty of prosecution, without regard for either the constitutionality of their actions or the individual rights of their citizens.

Despite voters failing to hold tyrannical leaders accountable at the ballot box, some lawmakers are taking steps to protect the constitutional rights of their constituents moving forward. The right to keep and bear arms limits the ability of the state to infringe upon other unalienable rights, so it is no surprise that liberty-minded officials are focusing on the protection of the Second Amendment.

Both houses of the Alaska legislature have passed a bill prohibiting the government from closing gun stores, even during a declared state of emergency. HB61, called “an Act relating to restrictions on firearms and other weapons,” passed the Alaska House 28-12 and the state Senate 17-3, receiving bipartisan support in both houses. The bill will soon be signed into law by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy.

To paraphrase the new soon-to-be law, which can be read in full here, no governor, state agency, or municipality will have the authority to proclaim or adopt an order or regulation that forbids the possession, use, or transfer of firearms, ammunition, parts, or accessories for personal use. The bill also prohibits the seizure or confiscation of said items.

During the COVID lockdowns, California counties ordered gun shops and shooting ranges to close, and that order was found unconstitutional by the ninth circuit court of appeals in McDougall v. County of Ventura. Alaska House Speaker Cathy Tilton, a Republican from Wasilla, sought to enshrine the court’s decision into state law, telling Washington Examiner “Even with McDougall v. County of Ventura’s ruling, I felt it important to expressly codify this in statutes because there actually had been a gun store closure in Alaska’s largest city during the pandemic. It was a personal priority to prevent that from happening again.”

Supporter of the bill Senator Scott Kawasaki said on the Senate floor “In Alaska we have a strong belief in individualism and the right to bear arms, both cannabis shops and alcohol dispensing stores were deemed essential—therefore allowed to open—gun shops, for a brief time, were not.” Senator Mike Shower, another supporter, added “We have to guard against this mentality of doing what we think is best, but we’re actually hurting people at the wrong time. Preventing the ability of a government to take away people’s fundamental right—which actually is in the constitution—but at a time when they most desperately need it is something we need to be really cognizant of Mr. President, because it has happened before in this country.”

Senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat representing Anchorage supported the bill on the grounds that many Alaskans depend on firearms and ammunition for sustenance “going to the ammo shop is essentially their way that they go and are able to… subsistence hunt and provide for their families.” Wielechowski added “When you’re talking about shutting down something the Alaska people have said expressly and explicitly is an individual right, you cannot do that.” Some Alaska lawmakers criticized the bill. Senator Jesse Kiehl, a Juneau Democrat, called it a “special rights bill” citing lobbying support from the National Rifle Association, but the opposition failed to drum up impactful dissent in either chamber of the legislature. Alaska Joins Ohio, Idaho, Louisiana, Kansas, and Montana, who have all passed similar legislation in recent years.

Brady Leonard is a musician, political strategist, and podcaster based in Toledo, Ohio. The No Gimmicks Podcast airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm EST, wherever podcasts are found. Follow him on Twitter @bradyleonard

Brady Leonard is a musician, political strategist, and podcaster based in Toledo, Ohio. The No Gimmicks Podcast airs Mondays and Wednesdays at 1pm EST, wherever podcasts are found.
Catalyst articles by Brady Leonard