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August 20: Anchorage Daily News on mayor's firearms registration policy:

Posted: Monday, August 21, 2000

Mayor George Weurch is in the process of wasting a whole lot of people's time -- Assembly members, bureaucrats, citizens.

The mayor's proposal to create a Firearms Registration Review Board is a political sideshow that has inflamed passions to little or no public purpose.

During the campaign, Mr. Weurch promised gun owners that he would find a way for them to legally obtain a variety of weapons, including machine guns and short-barreled shotguns. The weapons are permitted by federal law -- but only for people who win the approval of their local police department. In some cases, the weapons are collectors' items.

The police chief is asked to provide approval. But this chief, Duane Udland, and previous chiefs have been reluctant to sign off for fear of liability if a weapon owner runs amok.

So, Mayor Wuerch, champion of smaller government, has decided to create bigger government -- the registration review board -- to solve the problem.

It's unclear how a review board would escape liability if that's the issue. It's also unclear who would be on the board deciding if an applicant for a machine gun is safe, sober and responsible. Gun dealers? Psychologists?

Chief Udland, after all, is competent in firearms and trained in the law. It's hard to see why a lay board would have better judgment than the chief of police. Moreover, while charges of ''favoritism'' have been raised against the chief, you can bet that same charge would be directed at a board.

It's understandable that local police chiefs might prefer not to deal with the transfer of serious weapons.

But Uncle Sam has made it Chief Udland's job to approve or disapprove transfer requests, and he should do it. Mayor Wuerch should make that clear. And if the chief is forced to make close calls, we prefer he err on the side of fewer machine guns.

The mayor has transformed a small issue that affects few people into a brouhaha. He's creating more government. He's wasting the Assembly's time.

The Municipality of Anchorage faces significant financial issues. Mayor Wuerch and the Assembly should address them, not horse around with unsound, unnecessary legislation.

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