Opposing Viewpoints: Alaska senate bill 176
Lenin Lau/ Sun Star Reporter
April 15, 2014
FAIRBANKS–Senate Bill 176 which would allow concealed firearms to be carried on campus has reignited the debate about gun rights and limits in Alaska.
If passed, the bill would prohibit the University of Alaska Board of Regents and the president of the university from adopting policies inconsistent with state law, which as currently written prohibits guns in certain areas such as K-12 schools, alcohol establishments, daycare centers and in the residences of other individuals. With a vote certain by the end of the week, both sides make their case. Here are two voices of the debate.
What was the origin of this bill, how did it come to be?
“This idea came from the student body and student groups on campus, who got together and wanted to change the concealed carry ban on campus by the Board of Regents.
We believe that it’s our constitutional right under the U.S. constitution and the Alaskan constitution, which guarantees our right to bear arms and the right to privacy.
I applied for an internship and came to work with Senator Coghill and presented the idea to the Senator and he agreed.”
And you were the one who personally crafted the bill?
“Yes. We had a group of lawyers who helped put the bill into legal language who work in conjunction with Senator Coghill.”
According to a quote, you “concluded that the current situation surrounding firearms on campus was unacceptable.” Can you expound on that?
“Well right now concealed carry is prohibited on campus, which as a practice is in direct violation of the U.S. and Alaskan constitutions. This is about how the Board of Regents has skirted around state law, which allows concealed carry, and implemented this ban.”
What would change with passage of this Bill?
“The Board of Regents would have to allow lawful concealed weapons permits on campus, which takes a litany of steps to obtain: 12-hour gun safety training course, range training, fundamentals on self-defense, screening for mental illness, must be 21 and older, cannot have a felony or two misdemeanors in the past six years. This would really allow law-abiding individuals to exercise their constitutional right.”
In your opinion what are the benefits to the passage of this bill? Detriments?
“Statistics have shown that as gun rights have expanded, crime has gone down. If you look at Colorado and Utah where students can keep and bear arms, there have been no ill effects of firearms on campus. Arguments haven’t escalated into gunfights. Restoring our fundamental rights is the greatest benefit, following the rule of law and exercising our rights. It’s a great victory for constitutional rights and liberty.”
How do you respond to critics that this will increase violence or even suicide on campus?
“I respond with the statistics. Gun owners are shown to commit five and a half times less crime on average than the general population. They are not prone to violence and individuals who go through the process are statistically unlikely to turn the gun on themselves.”
Hans Rodvik, 21, a Political Science major at University of Alaska Anchorage, was born and raised in Anchorage, and from a young age has had experience with guns and gun safety, receiving his first BB gun at age six. Rodvik is currently serving as an intern for state senator John Coghill and is the architect of SB 176.
Chancellor Brian Rogers
What has been the response so far from the university staff, faculty and administrators?
“The response so far to the bill has been primarily negative. President Gamble, all three Chancellors, the two faculty unions, the staff governance, many student groups are opposing the two bills that are currently under consideration in the legislature.”
If this bill passes what do you think will be the impact on the university?
I think there are several impacts, one is the Alaska legislature and the courts has said there are some special places where guns should not be allowed, and as a result state law makes it criminal to possess a fire arm in residences without the permission, places where alcohol is served, child care facilities and K-12 schools; and university campuses are very similar to those circumstances. I guess my biggest concern is where you have a population of students, some of whom are having alcohol, and we have guns, the risk goes up for our students, and I think that creates an environment that is not positive for the learning experience.”
Can you respond to proponents of the bill who say that this is a matter of liberty and constitutional rights?
The second amendment to the U.S. constitution begins with “a well-regulated militia being necessary.” And so the constitution recognizes that some regulation is acceptable and the courts have upheld that in locations such as schools, alcohol establishments, daycare centers and the like. I understand his [Rodvik’s] position, we’re actually more open to fire
And how would you respond to proponents’ claims that this will actually make schools safer, citing the Virginia Tech massacre, where guns were banned on campus and students were like “sitting ducks”?
“The sixth leading cause of death in Alaska, and the leading cause of death for persons 15 to 24 years old is suicide. That’s the majority of students in our dorms, more guns is likely to insure more opportunities for suicide. That’s not a safer campus.”
Proponents currently cite both Utah and Colorado as states that allow conceal carry on campus, and that crime has steadily gone down as a result.
“The statistics on crime on campus vary widely, and many campuses that don’t allow firearms also have had a reduction of violent crime on the campus, so I don’t think picking out those two examples tells us anything.”
Brian Rogers is the Chancellor at University of Alaska Fairbanks. He graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government with a master’s in Public Administration. Although he is originally from Maine, he has spent almost 44 years in Alaska, mostly in Fairbanks, representing the area in Alaska House of Representatives, in Juneau for seven legislative sessions from 1979-1983.