Speaker Cathy Tilton’s bill signed by Dunleavy: Alaska governments can’t shut down gun stores during declared emergencies


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:


  1. ““the people that run the show, that supposedly we run the government, we remind the government who’s in charge.””

    Hear, hear! Apparently, we also need to remind the DoD, Air Force, and many others who have denied Congress the information that we, the people, seek and have sought for 75 years.

  2. Sad day in America, when we have to write special bills to protect our God given rights under the Constitution.

  3. As long as Alaska has municipal Assemblies the likes of Anchorage, Juneau and a couple others, redundant laws like this, reaffirming individual rights, will remain necessary. Maybe now, the Legislature can focus on adherence to state statute on the distribution of the Permanent Fund Dividend? Cash in, while they’re in a law abiding mood?

  4. Ever vigilant. With all of the anti-gun legislation coming out of DC, it will be up to states like Alaska to protect our rights. Thanks legislature and Governor Dunleavy.

  5. It doesn’t go far enough. It should include every business, every church, every organization, and every school.

  6. SD, you have a major error:

    “HB 61 reaffirms Alaskans’ right to survive and protect themselves, along with their rights granted to them through the Second Amendment.”

    This is false. The Constitution does not grant rights. It recognizes the rights we are born with. This is a critically importance distinction, yes?

  7. Inb4 “suspension of habeas corpus” which is not covered in the bill.
    You all got played by a feel good, do nothing law.

  8. Jesse Kiehl was all upset about this saying it violates his rights. I guess he feels it’s his right to violate ours? The Juneau Empire, the beacon of unbiased journalism that it is, echoed his statement. Of course he’s provided a security detail so he has nothing to worry about.

  9. Remember who & what was ” essential “when those rights were questioned and/or taken ,”Government is Force ” with out ,WE the Peoples finger on the trigger! Our Freedom was the biggest loss & we have yet reconciled that fact! Dunleavy had a travel document I wouldn’t sign and never will! Many sheep olé did .

  10. Sounds good, but just another posturing incident for politicians. When the legislature or governor can do what they did for two years during covid, suspend all laws and codes that they may break addressing an emergency, then this law will not mean a thing. It is moot when the state can nullify any or all laws it pleases. This is another slap in our faces, pretending they will follow the law. Dunleavy and those of the legislature in 2020, killed rule of law in Alaska. Not just for covid, but set a precedent where the state can do anything it pleases, whether a cold comes along or any other thing they wish to declare an emergency.
    Not a realistic way to stop what they just did before, oh, they can’t make any new laws or ordinances, but they can suspend all laws and codes if they choose, which means this law as well.

  11. So….the same governor who, by government coercion, shut down our houses of worship, gyms and schools is all of sudden riding in to save us by signing this bill? A bill we really had no need for in the first place had he been adhering to the principals of liberty and freedom under the US Constitution. Folks, if you always wait for politicians to “fix things” you’ll soon find out those same politicians were the people who screwed things up in the first place. Learn from history or trust government, but you can’t do both.

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