Alaska lawmakers~, passed a bill on Wednesday that prohibits state and municipal authorities from closing gun shops during catastrophes that the governor has proclaimed, unless such closures also affect all other businesses.
According to a statement from House Speaker Cathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican and the bill’s sponsor, the legislation, known as HB61, was created in response to business closures that occurred in Alaska and other states during the pandemic. Similar laws have been passed in a number of other states. The 121-day normal legislative session, which was scheduled to finish on Wednesday, was nearing its conclusion when the bill was one of the last ones discussed by MPs. State Senator Jesse Kiehl, a Democrat from Juneau, denounced it as a “special rights” law while the NRA’s lobbying arm supported it.
The bill was sent back to the House for a concurring vote after Tuesday’s 17-3 Senate vote. Late on Wednesday, the House voted 28–12 to pass the legislation. nWhen two California counties banned gun and ammunition stores as unnecessary businesses during the pandemic in 2020, a federal appeals court panel concluded that they had violated the freedom to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the constitution. HB61, according to Alaska state senator Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage, aligns the state with that court ruling.
According to Wielechowski, “going to the ammo shop is basically their way that they go and are able to go and [subsistence] hunt and provide for their families” for many people living in rural Alaska. The legislation also prohibits the governor, state agencies, or municipalities from issuing orders that prohibit people from owning or using firearms or other weapons for personal use or that restrict the sale of firearms, ammunition, or other weapons for personal use in situations where a governor has declared a disaster emergency.
People who are otherwise prohibited from owning guns would still be subject to the prohibitions. In accordance with state law, a governor may proclaim a disaster emergency if they believe one has already happened or is “imminent or threatened.” Proclamations declaring a disaster an emergency are only valid for 30 days, unless the legislature decides to extend them.
During the pandemic, Republican governor Mike Dunleavy issued a number of public health catastrophe emergency declarations. Tilton’s office used an order issued in 2020 by Anchorage’s then-mayor as an illustration of a circumstance in which there were gun store or shooting range closures during an emergency declaration. The declaration of an emergency had been made by the city. Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America volunteer Jan Caulfield of Juneau considered the bill unnecessary. She claimed that lawmakers might have spent more time addressing problems like the high number of gun fatalities.
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