Concealed carry bill shot down

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Photo credit: Molly Putman

A senate bill to allow concealed carry of firearms on UA campuses will remain gridlocked in the Alaska State House for the indefinite future, according to House democrats.

“The majority in my caucus, including myself, support the right to keep and bear arms,” Andrew Josephson (D), an Anchorage representative, said. “But we think that the university environment is not the right environment for people to have open carry or even concealed carry. We think that is not going to end happily.”

While some students support concealed carry in general, they expressed opposition to the practice on-campus.

“Personally, I can understand the concept of concealed carry and I like that we have the option in this state,” Jeremiah Klejka, a senior studying information technology, said. “But I don’t think the university is somewhere that you need to or should concealed carry, especially because things can get pretty heated in classrooms and discussions. It would just be bad to add guns into that mix.”

ASUAF senator and Russian studies student Georgia Durden shared Klejka’s sentiments.

“I think that allowing guns on campus would seriously inhibit the learning environment honestly,” Durden said. “Teachers might be more afraid of reprimanding students. It has the potential of making students feel isolated because they’re afraid of other students in their classroom. There are too many variants that could come up.”

The bill, SB-174, will not have enough votes to pass as long as the House majority remains democrat, Josephson said.

“The House, which was in almost exclusively Republican hands in 2015 when the bill was proposed, is now in democratic hands,” Josephson said. “And as a consequence, any bill of that nature that came to the House would die.”

Josephson feels deeply connected to this bill as his district in Anchorage includes the UAA campus.

“There are heroic circumstances where firearms act as great deterrence and protect people, but I think that they’re dangerous as well,” Josephson said. “I just think it’s a bad idea in the student atmosphere where you’re talking about sometimes sensitive issues with people going through a lot of change in their life and we’ve seen professors who feel unsafe with the idea of this.”

Josephson is not the only house member to feel this way.

“I don’t support the bill at all,” Adam Wool (D) Fairbanks representative, said. “If I have anything to do with it, I will help make sure it continues to goes away.”

Representative David Guttenberg (D), whose constituency includes the UAF campus, was unavailable for comment, but has voted against the bill in the past.

The bill was originally proposed by State Sen. Pete Kelly (R) in 2015. Kelly felt gun free zones on campuses made them soft targets for killers, he told Alaska Dispatch News in 2016. Sen. Kelly was unavailable for comment on the recent dropping of his bill.

UA President Jim Johnsen expressed concerns about the bill when it was first proposed.

“Are they going to know who’s armed and who’s not armed?” Johnsen said in 2016. “That’s a huge risk to take with our students.”

Students may not have to worry about this issue for some time, however.

“I would be shocked if I’m wrong about this,” Josephson said. “So, I think for the next two years, those who are concerned about campus carry need not be.”

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