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Drinking and carrying

Posted: December 16, 2011 - 11:44am

On the TV series "Alaska State Troopers," a young man with a concealed pistol was arrested and charged with misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree.

When the Trooper handcuffed this man, he seemed surprised. So was I. After all, it's legal to carry a concealed weapon in Alaska. You don't need a permit. But having a concealed weapon wasn't this guy's problem. His problem was having a weapon and being drunk.

According to the Alaska Statutes (AS 11.61.210), "(a) A person commits the crime of misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree if the person (1) possesses on the person, or in the interior of a vehicle in which the person is present, a firearm when the person's physical or mental condition is impaired as a result of the introduction of an intoxicating liquor or a controlled substance into the person's body... ."

The law makes no distinction as to whether the gun is concealed, whether it's loaded, or even whether it belongs to you. If it's in your possession or in your vehicle, and if you're impaired, you can be charged with misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree.

Luckily for him, the young man in the TV episode did the right thing by immediately telling the Trooper he had a concealed firearm. Under AS 11.61.220, if you're 21 or older, you can be charged with misconduct involving weapons in the fifth degree if you fail to immediately inform a peace officer that you're carrying a concealed weapon, if you don't allow the officer to secure the weapon, or if you don't secure the weapon at the direction of the officer.

Alaska has about the least-restrictive firearms laws in the country. You don't have to register a gun in Alaska. The state conducts instant background checks, so there's no waiting period when you buy a gun. If you're 21 or older and legally qualified to possess a firearm, you can carry a concealed firearm without a permit, although possession at certain locations, including courthouses, school yards, bars and domestic violence shelters is prohibited. If you're an Alaskan and want reciprocity with other states, you can obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm.

However, just because Alaska's gun laws are relatively unrestrictive doesn't mean there are none. Another law hunters and shooters need to be aware of is reckless endangerment, a Class A misdemeanor. Under Sec. 11.41.250: "(a) A person commits the crime of reckless endangerment if the person recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person."

My take on the issue of drinking and carrying is this: Simply carrying a gun, let along shooting one, requires focus and judgement, both of which quickly fade with any application of alcohol.

Another thing: Our freedom to carry guns comes with a responsibility to know the laws and to make wise choices.

What'll you have? Smith & Wesson or gin and tonic?

For a synopsis of Alaska state laws pertaining to the purchase, possession and carrying of firearms, visit: www.nraila.org/statelawpdfs/AKSL.pdf.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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