Rep. Mike Cronk, R-Tok, speaks in support of House Bill 61 on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, as Rep. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage, listens. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
The Alaska House of Representatives has approved a bill that allows gun stores and shooting ranges to stay open during most state-declared disaster emergencies.
If approved by the state Senate and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, House Bill 61 would forbid government-declared disaster declarations from limiting the sale or transfer of firearms during a disaster unless “all forms of commerce” are also barred.
Speaker of the House Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said in a written statement that the bill was inspired by COVID-19 restrictions that ordered the closure of gun stores but allowed other commerce to take place.
Rep. Mike Cronk, R-Tok, said on Wednesday that store closures caused ammunition shortages that curtailed subsistence hunting in his small town.
“It was approaching hunting season during the pandemic, and there was no ammo available,” he said.
Other sections of the bill forbid state and local officials from seizing firearms during a declared disaster, prohibit officials from canceling permits for concealed-carry firearms, keep them from barring the private sale or transfer of firearms and ammunition, and set guidelines for Alaskans to legally challenge restrictions imposed despite the law.
The House passed the bill 26-12. One of the bill’s opponents, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, criticized the bill as “almost a deification of the Second Amendment” and unsuccessfully attempted to amend it to forbid the emergency closure of churches, newspapers and other places linked to the federal Bill of Rights.
Rep. Ashley Carrick, D-Fairbanks, attempted to roll her House Bill 164, a measure requiring firearms to be locked up around children, into the bill. That amendment was ruled out of order on a 21-18 vote and not taken up.
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