The Alaska House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would make it a felony for federal agents to enforce new gun control measures within the state.
By the end of the debate, a third of the representatives in the House had offered their views on a measure that would essentially ban any new federal gun control regulations in the state. Some talked about the bill as a response to federal overreach, or the fiscal impact of the bill. But more than anything, the back-and-forth focused on whether the bill is even legal.
Rep. Andy Josephson, an Anchorage Democrat, argued that the bill violated the Constitution’s supremacy clause and wouldn’t hold up under legal scrutiny. He says he can’t support the bill because he sees it as a breach of his oath of office.
“I think this is secessionist talk,” said Josephson. “That’s what I think it is.”
The bill essentially holds that any new restrictions on gun ownership or limits on ammunition purchases would be in conflict with the Second Amendment, and shouldn’t apply in Alaska because of that. It comes as a reaction to President Barack Obama’s support for more gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting. Similar bills have been introduced in a dozen other states.
Rep. Doug Isaacson, a Republican from North Pole, voted for the bill, and he took offense at the claim that the Alaska legislature was flirting with secessionism.
“We take this as a serious trust, each one of us. That’s why we’re here. And we must push back,” said Isaacson. “There has to be a time when we say it has gone too far, and not to be considered secessionist in that process.”
Republican women were especially vocal in their support of the bill. They all wore matching lace and camouflage scarves that had been picked up at Nordstrom, and many stood up to say that the bill was needed in defense of the Second Amendment. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage was among them, and she defended the bill against those calling it unconstitutional by pointing out that states have passed marijuana initiatives that go against U.S. law, and the federal government hasn’t interfered.
“This bill sends an important message,” said LeDoux. “And yes, we all do know that the federal constitution trumps the state constitution and trumps state law. But we also know that it is very, very difficult for the federal authorities to enforce federal law when they’re getting no cooperation from the state authorities.”
But some Democrats had questions over what would happen if anyone ever did try to enforce the bill. Rep. Les Gara of Anchorage expressed concern that state troopers could face time in federal prison if they attempted to comply with the legislation by interfering with the work of a federal agent. And Rep. Max Gruenberg added that a situation like that could get the state involved in an expensive legal battle. Gruenberg also questioned why the House was spending time on legislation that was unlikely to be enforced, when it had more pressing issues like oil taxes to deal with.
“It’s unconstitutional. It’s unenforceable. It’s really distracting us as a legislature from the most important issues facing this state at this time,” said Gruenberg.
The bill ultimately passed the House 31 to 5, with minority Democrats Chris Tuck and Geran Tarr breaking with their caucus to support the measure. It still needs to be considered by the Senate.
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