Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Saturday signed a bill that prevents state or local governments in Alaska from shuttering gun and ammunition stores during a declared emergency. The bill signing took place at the shooting range behind Arctic Ammo and Reloading Supplies in Wasilla.
HB 61, sponsored by House Speaker Cathy Tilton, points out that in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Municipality of Anchorage under Mayor Ethan Berkowitz arbitrarily closed firearms retail stores for several days.
Some gun stores refused, setting up a constitutionally based tension between Mayor Berkowitz and the small business community. At the same time, Berkowitz allowed cannabis stores and liquor stores to remain open during the time when he closed firearm stores.
HB 61 reaffirms Alaskans’ right to survive and protect themselves, along with their rights granted to them through the Second Amendment. The bill stipulates that the state, municipalities, and other instrumentalities of the state may not implement new restrictions to access firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, firearms accessories, or shooting ranges during disaster declarations.
“During a disaster emergency declared under AS 26.23.020, the governor, a state agency, or a municipality may not issue or adopt an order, proclamation, regulation, ordinance, or policy forbidding the possession, use, or transfer of a firearm, a firearm part, a firearm accessory, ammunition, or other weapon for personal use; ordering the seizure or confiscation of a firearm, a firearm part, a firearm accessory, ammunition, or other weapon for personal use; limiting the quantity or placing other restrictions on the sale or service of firearms, firearm parts, firearm accessories, ammunition, or other weapons for personal use,” the new law reads in part.
“It is unfortunate that a state that is proudly 2A like Alaska had to pass this bill,” said Tilton during her introductory remarks to the crowd of about 40 who had gathered for the signing of the bill into law. “We shouldn’t even have to legislate this kind of a thing.”
Tilton said that if it is not put in state law, another person in authority could abuse their powers in the future.
Gov. Dunleavy then said that the Second Amendment is not an afterthought in America. While he visited Europe recently, he observed that in those countries, it’s the government that has the guns to control the people. In America, it’s the people who are armed, he noted … “the people that run the show, that supposedly we run the government, we remind the government who’s in charge.”
Citizens who are paying attention to current events can see that “all of our rights are under siege,” Dunleavy continued. “It’s our right to bear arms, and there’s a reason for that, it’s the history of our country. We have to be always on guard because our rights could disappear at any moment.”
HB 61 also provides a civil remedy to Alaskans, should any of those entities adopt statutes, ordinances, or policies in violation of the provisions of this bill.
Nothing in HB 61 limits the state, municipalities, and other instrumentalities from regulating firearms or their use within previously established constitutional and statutory boundaries.
Co-sponsors of the measure in the House and Senate included Reps. Kevin McCabe, Sarah Vance, Craig Johnson, Ben Carpenter, Mike Prax, Stanley Wright, George Rauscher, Tom McKay, Mike Cronk, Justin Ruffridge, Dan Saddler, Laddie Shaw, Frank Tomaszewski, Jessie Sumner, Jamie Allard, Julie Coulombe, Neal Foster, DeLena Johnson, and Will Stapp. Senators supporting the measure were Sens. Jessie Bjorkman, Robert Myers, Scott Kawasaki, Shelley Hughes, James Kaufman, David Wilson, Kelly Merrick, Bert Stedman, Click Bishop, Cathy Giessel, and Mike Shower.
Watch the bill-signing ceremony here: