JUNEAU — University of Alaska Anchorage students, a professor and the National Rifle Association called in to show their support for a bill that would allow firearms to be freely carried on the university system campuses.
The Senate Judiciary Committee took testimony from an invited group of speakers on Wednesday who all supported a bill from Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, that would erase the Board of Regents’ current rules limiting where firearms can be carried.
“I just don’t feel threatened by the idea that law-abiding Alaskans are going to have weapons. The thing we see in the country is these horrible shootings happen in zones that are effectively gun-free, specifically they happen at schools and universities,” said Michael Buckland, an aviation professor at UAA. “I feel that public safety will be increased by Senate Bill 176.”
The idea for the bill originated from UAA student Hans Rodvik, an intern in Coghill’s office. Rodvik said the current campus policies, which require firearms either be stored in a locked car or in designated firearm storage lockers, are a clear violation of the Second Amendment.
Montana Ware, a UAA student and president of the Young Americans for Liberty group on campus, also echoed Rodvik’s arguments.
“I consider it my right to have the means to protect myself under any circumstances which may threaten my life, incidentally the state constitution agrees with me,” he said.
On Monday, UA system President Pat Gamble testified to committee against the bill, saying he was concerned about the safety of the tens of thousands of K-12 students who attend university campuses daily. He said he believes it is a state priority to maintain gun-free zones around students, and it should extend to university campuses.
Ware argued that he felt any person seeking to harm students will disregard the current policies on campus.
“Every day I go to school, I pass by those signs that make it clear that guns are not allowed on campus,” he said. “I try to add up the logic, why would someone who’s willing to hurt students on campus be unwilling to violate gun restriction policy?
The answer is that they would be totally willing regardless of UAA’s policy.”
Committee members largely didn’t delve into the issue of self-defense or the Second Amendment, but focused on the possible increase in accidents or injuries because of the an influx of firearms on campus.
“One of the concerns I have is with accidental shootings,” said Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin. “Those are the sorts of things that concern me. You have more people out there, you have more chances of accidentally having a gun go off.”
NRA spokesman Brian Judy responded that there are a lot of other things out there that are more likely to cause injury.
“The facts are that accidents involving firearms are relatively rare,” he said. “There are so many other types of things in society — actions, objects — that are much more prone to harming people from accidents.”
The Senate committee is scheduled to hear the bill again on Friday and plans to take more public testimony on Monday.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.