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Gun owners pack meeting

Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009

It should come as no surprise that when guns are on the table in this community, the room doesn't empty, but fills.

Photo By Dante Petri
Photo By Dante Petri
Bob Bird, left, and Schaeffer Cox, read questions submitted to the Soldotna Police Department and answered via e-mail, while Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai listens, Tuesday at the Soldotna Sports Center.

That was the case Tuesday night at the Soldotna Sports Center, where guns might not have literally been on any tables, but they certainly were up for discussion.

More than 200 people packed into the meeting room for the Second Amendment Task Force meeting, an event locally spearheaded by Bob Bird, of Nikiski, a Nikiski Middle-High School social studies teacher, and most recently a candidate for U.S. Senate.

Bird explained to the crowd early on that the assembly was not politically based, saying, "This is not the National Rifle Association, this is not the Gun Owners of America, this is not a political party."

"We're here because we sense that our right to keep and bear arms is being threatened," he said.

The assembly focused on discussion from a panel of speakers that included Wayne Anthony Ross, the governor's recently unsuccessful candidate for Attorney General; Dave Carey, Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor; Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai; Jack Wells and Rick Jore, both former Montana state representatives.

Also on the panel was Schaeffer Cox, of Fairbanks, who most recently lost in his bid to represent Fairbanks in the state house earlier this year.

Cox, sporting a newsboy cap, was the youngest member of the panel. However, Bird introduced him as a 25 going on 55.

While Bird explained that no central organization oversaw the town hall style meeting, he credited Cox with providing the momentum to put together the one in Soldotna and those held elsewhere around the state.

Cox explained that after doing a radio address in Fairbanks, he was approached about having a meeting.

"Off the air somebody called me and said, 'What are we going to do about all of these gun control laws and all these restrictions?'" he said.

Two days later Cox said they held a meeting and more than 100 showed up. Several more were held in the following weeks and attendance continued to climb.

Cox said the meetings are providing citizens with a chance to voice their concerns about Second Amendment restrictions.

He described the frustration some feel, saying, "We feel like our only recourse is to write our congressman, to beg for mercy and kiss the ring and say, please don't; and we're groveling at their feet and that's all we've got."

Cox said that many like himself feel that's not enough, pointing to the packed room in Soldotna and the ones he's seen in Fairbanks and Anchorage as evidence.

He argued that the federal government is overpowering state and local governments by making them dependent on federal funding, allowing the federal government to control state laws, such as gun control.

For this reason, Cox said his group in Fairbanks has urged Rep. Don Young to co-sponsor a resolution that would abolish the Federal Reserve.

They've also pushed for the passage of the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act, HB186, that exempts from any federal regulation a firearm, firearm accessory or ammunition that's manufactured in the state, as long as it remains in the state.

Cox explained that the commerce clause is the only way the federal government can regulate guns and this would exempt them.

The bill, which passed through the house, remains in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Cox said the group is also pushing for a fully informed jury bill.

"If these bad gun laws get put on the books, certainly we're not going to comply," he said.

Lastly he hopes to see a sovereignty bill.

"If the Feds keep usurping the authority of the state, if they keep acting like they're the king of the universe, it mandates by law that the state seek recourse with other states," he said.

The meeting also included a presentation by Scott Hamman, of Nikiski, on "good and bad legislation," a question and answer session with Wagoner, a presentation of questions answered before the meeting by Soldotna Police Chief John Lucking Jr. via e-mail, comments from Carey, Ross, Wells and Jore.

At the end of the meeting Cox brought up the idea of holding an "open carry" day, a day when gun owners could carry weapons in a non-concealed manner, on the peninsula.

No date was set for such an event, however.

Additionally a proclamation created by the small group that organized the event was circulated seeking signatures in support of asking the state's leaders to defend citizens from Second Amendment infringements by the federal government.

Dante Petri can be reached at dante.petri@peninsulaclarion.com



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