UA regents take no stand on Senate gun bill

JUNEAU — University of Alaska officials have yet to respond to a Senate bill that would allow the legal concealed carry of firearms on University of Alaska campuses.

Senate Bill 176, sponsored by Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, would prohibit the university from enacting any firearms bans on its campuses with the exception of restricted areas where visitors are screened, the Fairbanks News Miner reported.

Coghill has said the bill, brought to him by his intern, challenges the Board of Regents’ authority to set rules restricting legal carry.

The bill says the state has the authority to regulate firearms and knives and unless specifically allowed by law, the regents cannot enforce policies regulating things like possession or use.

SB176 says board policies can restrict shooting a firearm in places where people, property or animals are jeopardized and possession of firearms and knives in restricted access areas of university buildings.

Coghill says the question is whether his proposal would encourage or mitigate those who want to be bad actors. He said he thinks it mitigates it.

During the UA Board of Regents meet Thursday in Fairbanks, neither UA President Patrick Gamble nor Board chairwoman Patricia Jacobson took a stance on Coghill’s bill.

Jacobson said the presence of guns might be illegal in certain areas of campus, such as daycare centers or areas where students younger than 18 are taught

Jacobson noted campuses have a variety of areas regarding the legal status of carrying firearms, but did not say whether she felt Coghill’s bill identified a legitimate issue with UA policies.

The university allows firearms on campus in certain places as long as they are locked in a vehicle or kept in a specially designated weapons locker. They are not allowed in classrooms, labs, offices or other buildings such as concert halls.

“The board is constitutionally required to govern university premises. We must balance rights of individuals while ensuring safe and responsible operation,” Jacobson said in an email to the newspaper. “Our universities are complex places. They actually have many of the features of places and situations in which the Legislature criminalizes or restricts possession of weapons.”

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