This editorial appeared in the Voice of the Times:
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Lawmakers in Juneau smacked another one over the fence when they passed legislation that bars confiscation of legally owned, possessed and carried firearms from law-abiding citizens during disaster emergencies.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. John Coghill, R-North Pole, and a host of others, came in response to the Hurricane Katrina debacle in New Orleans. Authorities there trampled the Constitution and egregiously abridged the rights of law-abiding gunowners by seizing their lawfully owned firearms - leaving them defenseless in the face of murderous mobs.
The legislation, when signed into law, would prohibit such confiscations in Alaska, and not only does it protect the constitutional rights of Alaskans from official misconduct, it has teeth to ensure overzealous officials do not ignore its provisions with a nudge and a wink. It imposes serious penalties, up to and including impeachment or loss of municipal office. If the official involved is a police officer, he or she could have their police certification revoked.
The measure passed 19-1 in the Senate, with Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, casting the dissenting vote. The final version passed in the House unanimously.
We live in a more hazardous world than we had imagined before 9/11 or Katrina. It is difficult to comprehend a more intense, frightening and possibly dangerous situation than the aftermath of a large man-made or natural disaster. Civil authorities, as in New Orleans, simply may be unable to cope with the magnitude of the devastation, leaving the law-abiding to defend themselves and their loved ones for an unknown length of time in dangerous circumstances.
It only makes great good sense to ensure the citizenry is able to do its part in maintaining and restoring civil order, if necessary. Coghill's measure takes a long step in that direction and acknowledges what most of us already know - the real problem in a disaster situation is not the armed citizen; it is the lawless element that would take advantage if left unchecked.
Lawmakers did a good thing when they passed Legislation earlier to clarify and expand the circumstances in which Alaskans can use deadly force to protect a life outside the home. They did a good thing when they ensured misguided officials could not disarm Alaskans after disasters.
Two home runs. Nice job.