House narrowly approves protest to handgun law

Posted: Sunday, April 09, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- The state House has approved a resolution calling for Congress to repeal the Brady firearms law, but just barely.

A resolution sponsored by Rep. John Coghill calling for repeal of the Brady law was approved Friday 21-15 -- the bare minimum number of votes needed to clear the body generally considered firearm friendly.

Under the Brady law, licensed sellers of handguns and most long guns must check with a designated authority to make sure the buyer has not committed any of a variety of crimes, including felonies or domestic-violence misdemeanors.

Coghill, R-North Pole, attacked the Brady law as a violation of the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. He said the law has invaded the privacy of Americans because of the information collected by the government for gun purchases. He also said it has increased the cost of firearms.

''It was never intended to become a tax bill,'' Coghill said. ''It has become a tax bill.''

Coghill acknowledged that there are limits to freedoms, and said a person cannot go into a crowded theater and cause a stampede by yelling ''Fire!'' He said certain restrictions are acceptable on Americans' right to bear arms, but that current restrictions are akin to gagging people before they walked into the theater.

Rep. Scott Ogan, R-Palmer, said the Brady bill has been ineffective because almost no one banned from buying a gun has been prosecuted in Alaska for attempting to do so.

But Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, said most people agree that the Brady law contains some good aspects, including the instant check system. Though people may not be prosecuted for the attempt, Croft said, the system has worked to keep weapons out of the hands of felons and others who may no longer possess them.

Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, D-Anchorage, said the courts have ruled that the Brady bill is constitutional, a point not likely to be lost on members of Congress who could actually change the measure.

''There's an implied insult to them that they passed something that was unconstitutional,'' Berkowitz said.

Five Republicans joined 10 Democrats in voting against the measure.

House Speaker Brian Porter, a former police chief, voted no, as did fellow Anchorage Republicans Con Bunde, Andrew Halcro, and Lisa Murkowski. Rep. Bill Hudson, R-Juneau, also voted no.

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