JUNEAU - Pilots of small airplanes may be breaking either Alaska law or Canada law when they fly into Canada.
State Rep. John Harris, a Valdez Republican, is trying to get them out of that bind by changing part of an Alaska law that requires pilots of small planes to carry a gun as part of their survival equipment. His House Bill 127 passed the House unanimously Thursday.
Harris said Alaska law needs to change because of tightening gun laws in Canada. That country requires people carrying guns to register them and pay a fee. Those who want a permanent Canada firearms permit must take a training course.
"It creates a conflict with Alaska pilots who fly through Canada to the Lower 48," Harris said.
The legislation would give pilots an out if they don't want to register their weapons in Canada. Under the bill, they'd still need to carry a firearm for in-state flights, but not for flights into Canada.
A gun is just one part of the emergency equipment package Alaska requires pilots to carry on planes with 15 or fewer passengers. They're also supposed to fly with a two-week supply of food; an ax or hatchet; a first aid kit; a knife; two small boxes of matches; signaling devices; a small gillnet and various fishing tackle; and in the winter, a sleeping bag, wool blanket and snowshoes.
In an earlier committee meeting, some legislators decided to update other parts of the law, which Harris said dates back to the 1930s.
Rep. Scott Ogan, a Palmer Republican, changed it to require "fire starter" instead of matches. In a nod to modern fabrics, he made a change that would that allows pilots to carry a wool blanket "or the equivalent." The bill also ditches the small gillnet requirement.
The measure now goes to the Senate.