State Senate Bill 176, which would if passed, allow students with concealed carry licenses to bring concealed weapons on campus, including the residence halls, has been amended and moved to committee. The first draft of the bill allowed for open carry, which student advocates say was not their original intent. The Senate Judiciary Committee amended the bill, which is now submitted as CSSB 176 (JUD) and focuses solely on students who have a concealed carry permit.
Advocates for the legislation say the current policy overrides the state’s constitution regarding weapon use, while a briefing statement issued by the university says the current policy matches Alaska gun law restrictions for sensitive areas.
The Alaska Constitution includes weapons restrictions regarding concealed carry. These restrictions say no one under the age of 21 is permitted to carry a concealed weapon, even with a permit. A person concealing must ask the permission of an adult when visiting a residence to bring their weapon into the home. There are also to be no loaded firearms in places where intoxicating liquor is served, such as bars or lounges. Restrictions also say possession of a concealed weapon in childcare facilities, court system facilities, domestic violence and sexual assault shelters and K-12 schools is against the law.
University administration argues that many of the restrictions placed on those with concealed carry permits can be found throughout the UA system. The brief states 60 percent of residential students are under 21 years of age. Both UAA and UAF have childcare facilities on campus. The University of Alaska adjudicates disciplinary and academic issues daily. UA operates health and counseling centers and sexual harassment offices. UA is responsible for student life in the residence halls. Liquor is served in campus pubs and is allowed in student housing. K-12 students often visit campuses to participate in enrichment and college preparation programs.
The current university policy allows students to carry weapons at supervised activities such as rifle ranges, at events with permission such as gun shows, in cars on campus streets and parking lots, by faculty or staff in residences, and on undeveloped or uninhabited land. Presently, weapons are not permitted in any university building including the residence halls, classrooms, labs or meeting spaces.
Kate Ripley, public affairs director for the University of Alaska, said even though the bill has been amended to focus on students who have concealed carry permits, the administration still does not support the legislation.
Ripley stated, “We still don’t think the committee substitute is acceptable. We have concerns about the guns in the dorms (residence halls) and how that would work.”
Students who live in the residence halls are currently permitted to own weapons, but these weapons must be registered with the university and kept in a lockbox located in the University Police Department. The lockbox is available to students 24 hours a day. CSSB 176 (JUD) would allow for students with concealed carry permits to have legal weapons in their university housing rooms.
If passed, CSSB 176 would allow students with a permit to keep their concealed weapons with them in the residence halls. Students would be required to provide a specific type of lockbox to safe-keep their weapons when they are not being carried. Rodvik said the lockboxes would be the types that are only accessible via fingerprints.
Permits for concealed carry are not eligible for revocation. People who exhibit signs of depression, hostility or aggression, or who are involuntarily hospitalized for a psychological evaluation would still be permitted to keep their weapons.
UAA student and legislative intern Hans Rodvik said, “I’d point people who are concerned about this Senate Bill 176 and their fears of the university about becoming an unsafe place because of this bill — I would point them to Utah and Colorado. Utah has been a concealed carry campus since 2004. They have not had an incident on campus.”
According to Rodvik, statistic show those who have concealed carry licenses are five times less likely to commit crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault.
The briefing sheet says, “Students, staff and faculty groups have all passed resolutions in support of the university’s position (regarding CSSB 176). In addition, police chiefs, campus directors and many others have voiced their opposition to this bill. They join the administration in opposing this legislation and feel that current university policies regulating firearms on campus are sensible.”