JUNEAU — The Alaska House took a bold step against federal regulation of firearms on Monday, but critics questioned the constitutionality of the path.
House Bill 69, which passed the House 31-5, would exempt firearms, accessories and ammunition from all federal firearm control laws as well as make it a felony for federal agents to enforce new gun laws.
The bill was penned by House Speaker Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, in response to renewed efforts from President Barack Obama to regulate firearms in order to curtail gun violence.
The approach would have the state arrest federal employees attempting to enforce new gun regulations and charge them with a class C felony.
“It’s unconstitutional, it’s unenforceable, it’s really distracting us, as a Legislature, from the issues facing this state at this time, which is oil taxes, oil royalties, the development of our oil and gas fields and getting energy to an energy-starved state,” said Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage.
A memo Gruenberg requested from the legislative legal department stated the law was “likely to be found unconstitutional and unenforceable.” Another memo stated that interfering with a federal agent could land a state employee in prison for up to 20 years. (http://bit.ly/XXz0gf)
House Republicans defended the legislation, saying it protects Second Amendment rights and that courts should be left to settle that issue.
“We must push back, there must be a time when we say it’s gone too far,” said Rep. Doug Isaacson, R-North Pole. “We’re willing to stand behind you. ... Let’s be those who stand up for our people and say enough is enough.”
Isaacson also said the Second Amendment is not intended to protect “hunting clubs” but well-maintained militias, adding that the public should have access to anything the military has, even if that’s a F-22 fighter jet.
“If the state can afford an F-22, and I as a citizen can afford an F-22, this article gives me the right to own exactly the same type of armament that the federal government has. That may sound like it’s way on the edge,” he said. “This well-regulated militia is not a hunting club, it’s not a recreational force. As a matter of fact it is to keep and bear arms, is a right to have free, non-tyrannical government.”
Interior Reps. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Pete Higgins, R-Fairbanks, also spoke in support of the bill.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, compared HB 69 to laws in other states that have legalized marijuana. They conflict with federal law, but the states’ resistance has caused the feds to step back on marijuana enforcement, she said.
“We all know it’s very, very difficult to enforce federal law when it gets no support from the state,” she said. “I contend that the passage of this law, the federal government is just as likely to blink as not blink.”
The legislation is modeled after similar legislation in Wyoming and at least 11 other states are considering similar laws.
The bill passed with unanimous support from the House Majority. Two Democrats, Anchorage Reps. Geran Tarr and Chris Tuck, crossed over to support it.
Fairbanks Democratic Reps. David Guttenberg and Scott Kawasaki, who was the only Democratic candidate to receive an endorsement from the NRA during last year’s elections, had excused absences. The bill is up for reconsideration so both lawmakers could have the opportunity to vote on it.
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: