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Alaska Editorial: Gun bill makes mockery of legitimate concerns

Posted: March 1, 2013 - 1:05am

This editorial first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

Alaska state government has some rational, legal methods of defending the Second Amendment rights of Alaskans. Sending Alaska State Troopers to arrest federal agents isn’t one of them.

Yet that course of action could be required by legislation approved by the state House on Monday.

The provision in the House bill is nonsense, as some legislators acknowledged, but they voted for it anyway. Senators should refrain from doing so if they get the chance.

Several House members said they voted for this bill to protest proposed new federal gun restrictions, i.e. to “do something.”

By using this method of protest, though, they’ve invited mockery rather than serious consideration of their legitimate concerns about new federal gun regulations. This bill draws cringes from all intelligent people who fervently oppose passage of ineffective new gun rules rooted in an equally uninformed, emotional desire to “do something.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., recently begged the GOP not to be the “stupid party.” One could imagine this legislation is precisely the sort of thing about which he was thinking.

The House bill starts by claiming that any new federal firearm registration requirement or federal ban or restriction on ownership of semiautomatic firearms or firearm magazines “is unenforceable in this state by ... the federal government.”

Really? The Alaska House has just judged a law of Congress to be unenforceable by federal officials. A sixth-grader could tell legislators they don’t have that power.

It doesn’t stop there, though.

The next line of the bill states that any federal official who tries to enforce any new federal rule of this sort “is guilty of a class C felony and may be punished as provided in A.S. 12.55.” That statute offers up to two years in prison for a first offense.

Besides putting state and local law enforcement officers in a terrible position, this creates a conflict in which the state is guaranteed to lose. The way to successfully challenge federal officials is not to declare them criminals but to deny them authority to operate. That requires action by Congress or a court, not handcuffs wielded by an Alaska State Trooper.

One supporter of this bill, herself an attorney no less, asserted that it is analogous to recent decisions in Colorado and Washington that legalized marijuana use despite the federal law that still criminalizes it. Not even close. Voters in those states didn’t order their state police to arrest federal officers who bust people for marijuana. They simply decriminalized marijuana in their state laws.

The equivalent here would be for members of the Alaska Legislature to refrain from matching any new federal gun rules. That seems like a good place to start — and it would be a decision they actually have the authority to make.

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