Amendments added to Speaker's gun legislation

JUNEAU — A Senate committee heard strong public testimony Monday in favor of criminalizing new federal gun regulations in Alaska.

HB69, by House Speaker Mike Chenault, would make any future federal laws that ban assault weapons or require gun owners to register their weapons unenforceable in Alaska. A legislative attorney earlier this year said the original bill was “largely unconstitutional.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is currently reviewing the bill, removed HB69’s most contentious section, which would have made it a felony for federal officers to enforce certain gun regulations in the state.

Instead, the bill now bars state and municipal agencies from using their assets to help implement a federal regulation or law that infringes upon the Second Amendment. It also directs the state attorney general to defend Alaskans who fight the federal government based on Second Amendment violations.

Public testimony Monday largely decried the change, saying it removed the teeth from the bill.

Sen. John Coghill, the committee’s chairman, said he’s gotten 120 emails echoing that sentiment.

But he said his solution strikes a good balance.

“It’s been with some trepidation that I’ve taken the felony language out, because I agree that we need to fight back in the strongest possible terms. But my fear is, in doing that, we end up weakening our position,” Coghill said. “(My intention) is not to water the bill down; it’s really to give it what I would consider the best kind of opportunity to be the best defense for Alaskans.”

The committee’s lone minority Democrat, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, called Coghill’s amendment “creative” and “clever” because it effectively removes local enforcement mechanisms without setting up a standoff between state and federal officers, a concern that was voiced when the measure was voted on in the House. He said he’s ready to support the bill.

Coghill said his intention is to allow senators to propose amendments Wednesday and move the bill out then. The committee is the bill’s only committee of referral on the Senate side.

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