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Fairbanks Assembly rejects proposal to allow borough employees to carry guns on job

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Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013 12:21 am | Updated: 12:49 pm, Fri Jul 12, 2013.

Correction: Lance Roberts and Michael Dukes voted yes on the proposal. Earlier versions of this story were incorrect.

FAIRBANKS — The Borough Assembly soundly defeated a proposal to allow borough employees to carry firearms while on the job.

The ordinance, authored by Assemblyman Lance Roberts, would have effectively allowed employees to carry a firearm if they went through a concealed carry handgun course.

He proposed the ordinance as a means to improve the safety of the borough building, adding that he felt the current rule against firearms made employees “second-class citizens.”

“This is to allow borough employees to be treated like any other citizen,” he said. “By putting this forward, we can make the borough building a safer place.”

The assembly held lengthy public testimony on the ordinance, with people testifying on both sides of the issue. Some said they didn’t want to worry about borough employees carrying firearms, but others argued that more guns will result in less violence.

Some borough employees testified in support of the ordinance, saying they might begin carrying firearms while on the job if the ordinance passed.

However many assemblymembers as well as the borough administration expressed deep concern about the safety and liability of the borough if it begins to allow employees to carry firearms.

Assemblyman Karl Kassel, who previously worked as the director of the borough’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said he had dealt with a gun-carrying employee before the rule went into effect in 1996 and said it made other employees uncomfortable.

But more than comfort, Kassel said he was particularly worried about the risk of injury from accidental shootings. He said he knows many trained professionals, even an instructor, who have been affected by accidental shootings.

“Over 600 are killed every year accidentally by firearms, way more than are killed from massacre situations. That’s a bigger risk and liability than some nut coming through the front door,” he said. “I really don’t think it’s a good idea to add guns to the workplace.”

The argument seemed to make an impact on Presiding Officer Diane Hutchison, who broke from the typical silence of her position to speak against the ordinance.

“As much as I’m a gun supporter, I also have a brother who was accidentally shot and killed,” she said. “It doesn’t stop me from carrying a gun. ... Many more people I know have died from a gun accident instead of a gun massacre. Mr. Kassel’s statement about this is very real.”

The ordinance was defeated on a 6-2 vote with Assemblymembers John Davies, Van Lawrence and Guy Sattley joining Hutchison and Kassel in voting “no.” Roberts and Michael Dukes were the sole “yes” votes.  Natalie Howard was not present.

Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.

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