Senate passes concealed carry bill, 13-5

The Senate passed a bill Thursday to allow people to carry concealed firearms on University of Alaska campuses.

Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, debating the merits of his Senate Bill 174, April 7, 2016. The billl would deny the University of Alaska the authority to regulate the possession of guns and knives on campuses. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)
Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, debating the merits of his Senate Bill 174. The bill would deny the University of Alaska the authority to regulate the possession of guns and knives on campuses. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Bill sponsor Fairbanks Republican Sen. Pete Kelly says students would be safer if there were more guns on campus.

Kelly quoted professors from other countries who opposed the measure, Senate Bill 174.

“‘Well, if I’d have known this would be the case, I never would have taken this job,'” Kelly recalled them saying. “Or, ‘If this bill is enacted, I’m considering quitting.’ Now, almost everyone that heard that — good ol’ fashioned Americans — the same thought was going through our, their mind, because I talked to them later, and repeat after me: ‘Don’t let the screen door hit you in the …’ You know the rest of the phrase.”

University leaders asked legislators to amend the bill so the university maintained more of its ability to regulate guns. While Kelly agreed to some amendments, he opposed others.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Berta Gardner opposed the bill. She noted that the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recognized that firearm restrictions in schools and government buildings were legitimate.

“The University of Alaska is a government building. It’s also a school. The Alaska State Capitol is a government building. We ban weapons in this building,” she said. “Why do we think it’s incumbent upon us to not allow or trust the Board of Regents to regulate their buildings in the same way we regulate our own?”

The vote was 13-5. Majority caucus Senators Click Bishop of Fairbanks, Lyman Hoffman of Bethel, and Gary Stevens of Kodiak joined Juneau Democratic Sen. Dennis Egan and Gardner in opposing the bill.

The House Education Committee will hear the bill next.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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