After a Summer of Violence, Smart Gun Laws Are the Solution

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

RoanokeThe horrific streak of highly publicized shootings this summer has left many reeling, including us. With each passing day, the death toll from gun violence climbs, and the urgent need to adopt smart gun laws becomes clearer and clearer. At the Law Center, we’re mourning these horrific tragedies, but we’re also taking action: our legal experts have redoubled their efforts to find common-sense solutions to the epidemic of gun violence playing out in America.

There are a few key policy areas that must be strengthened in order to prevent tragedies of the magnitude we’ve seen over the last few months, beginning with the racially motivated massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, right up to this week’s on-camera execution of two Virginia journalists. We lose 80 Americans a day to gun violence, and, in 2015, for the first time, more young people will die from guns than from cars. If we want that madness to end, we must push for smarter gun laws:

Universal background checks provide the first line of defense—they help keep guns from falling into the wrong hands. Federal law still has a dangerous loophole that allows prohibited people—the dangerously mentally ill, drug abusers, convicted domestic abusers and felons—to easily purchase guns through private or online sales. With the rise of the internet and social media since the Brady Bill was first passed in 1993, the need to close this loophole has become exponentially more urgent.

State reporting improvements also must be made in order for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to issue accurate reports on potential gun buyers. Many states fail to comprehensively report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and illicit drug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and stronger incentives and penalties on states to report relevant records to NICS will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.

Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) empower families and law enforcement to petition a judge to remove guns from relatives who pose a risk to themselves or others. Shooters often exhibit dangerous warning signs, and GVRO laws help keep guns away from people with the intent to harm. California passed a landmark GVRO last year, in response to the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara. How many other mass shootings could have been prevented had the shooters’ families had legal recourse to keep them away from deadly weapons?

In statehouses across the country, the fight for smart gun laws continues—the good news is, we’re winning. Since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, lawmakers have passed more than 99 lifesaving smart gun laws in 37 states. In states with smart gun laws, like the ones mentioned above, their gun death rates have plummeted, as you can see on our annual Gun Law State Scorecard. And we continue to defeat the gun lobby in court—93 percent of Second Amendment challenges to existing gun laws have failed since the landmark Heller decision in 2008. Americans overwhelmingly support smart gun laws, and we owe it to the 30,000 victims of gun violence to fight for these lifesaving policies.

State Right to Bear Arms in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Article I, § 19 of the Alaska Constitution provides:

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State.

Alaska courts have held that the right conferred by art. I, § 19 is not absolute and may be regulated by the state legislature. In Gibson v. State, the court of appeals rejected an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Statutes § 11.61.210(a)(1), prohibiting persons from possessing a firearm on the person or having a firearm in the interior of a vehicle in which they are present, or when they are physically or mentally impaired by liquor or a controlled substance.1 The court found that art. I, § 19:

[W]as not intended to eliminate government regulation of people’s possession and use of firearms. Rather, the government retains the authority to enact and enforce laws prohibiting people from possessing firearms when there is a significant risk that they will use those firearms in a criminal or dangerous fashion.2

The court found that, since a statute criminalizing the possession of firearms while intoxicated “bears a close and substantial relationship to the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens,” the statute was a proper use of the state’s police power.3

On similar grounds, the court of appeals also rejected an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(10), which prohibits a convicted felon from residing in a dwelling knowing that there is a concealed firearm in the dwelling.4 The court held that art. I, § 19 was not intended to eliminate government regulation of an individual’s possession and use of firearms when there is a significant risk that a person will use a firearm in a criminal or dangerous fashion.5

In 2010, the Supreme Court of Alaska held once again that the right conferred by art. I, § 19 “is limited and does not invalidate laws that restrict convicted felons’ access to firearms.”6

  1. 930 P.2d 1300 (Alaska Ct. App. 1997). []
  2. Gibson, 930 P.2d at 1301. []
  3. Id. at 1302. []
  4. Morgan v. State, 943 P.2d 1208 (Alaska Ct. App. 1997). []
  5. Morgan, 943 P.2d at 1212. See also Wilson v. State, 207 P.3d 565, 566–568 (Alaska Ct. App. 2009) (rejecting an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(1) which prohibits possession of a firearm by a felon, because art. I, § 19 does not limit the state’s authority to regulate firearms used in a criminal or dangerous fashion); Lapitre v. State, 233 P.3d 1125, 1128 (Alaska Ct. App. 2010) (rejecting a challenge to the felon-in-possession statute). []
  6. Farmer v. State, Dep’t of Law, 235 P.3d 1012, 1016 (Alaska 2010). []

Local Authority to Regulate Firearms in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Alaska has expressly preempted most local firearm regulation. Alaska Statutes § 29.35.145(a) provides:

The authority to regulate firearms and knives is reserved to the state, and, except as specifically provided by statute, a municipality may not enact or enforce an ordinance regulating the possession, ownership, sale, transfer, use, carrying, transportation, licensing, taxation, or registration of firearms and knives.

Municipalities may, however, adopt ordinances that:

  • Are identical to state law and that provide the same penalty as state law;
  • Restrict the discharge of firearms where there is a reasonable likelihood that people, domestic animals, or property will be jeopardized;
  • Restrict areas in which firearms may be sold, although businesses selling firearms may not be treated more restrictively than other businesses located within the same zone; and
  • Prohibit the possession of firearms in the restricted access area of municipal government buildings (a “restricted access area” is the area beyond a secure point where visitors are screened and does not include common areas of ingress and egress open to the general public, per § 29.35.145(e)(2)).1

In addition, the prohibition on taxation in section 29.35.145(a) does not include imposition of a sales tax that is levied on all products sold within a municipality.2

Alaska Statutes § 18.65.800(a) also restricts local gun regulation, providing that:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law…a municipality…may not adopt or enforce a law, ordinance, policy, or rule that prohibits or has the effect of prohibiting an individual from possessing a firearm while that individual is within a motor vehicle or prohibiting an individual from storing a firearm that is locked in the individual’s motor vehicle while the motor vehicle is otherwise legally parked in or on state or municipal property or another person’s property.

An employer or its agent may, however, prohibit firearm possession within a secured restricted access area (as defined in § 29.35.145(e)(2), see above), in a vehicle owned, leased, or rented by the employer or its agent, or in a parking lot owned or controlled by the employer within 300 feet of the secured restricted access area.3

The state, a municipality, or a person is not liable for any injury or damage resulting from the storage of a firearm in the vehicle of another individual in accordance with section 18.65.800.4

In addition, section 18.65.778 provides that “[a] municipality may not restrict the carrying of a concealed handgun by permit” issued in accordance with Alaska law. Although Alaska has a comprehensive permitting scheme for the carrying of concealed handguns under sections 18.65.700 to 18.65.790, such permits are no longer required.

There are no cases interpreting the aforementioned statutes.

  1. Alaska Stat. § 29.35.145(b). []
  2. Alaska Stat. § 29.35.145(c). []
  3. Alaska Stat. § 18.65.800(d). []
  4. Alaska Stat. § 18.65.800(c). []

Alaska State Law Summary

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

alaska

alaska

Alaska does not:

In 2013, Alaska had the highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. In addition, based on data published by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Alaska ranked fourth among the states in terms of the number of crime guns exported to other states per capita in that year. Despite its remote location from the lower 48 states, Alaska exports crime guns at over twice the national average.
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Ammunition Regulation in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In Alaska, a state parole board may require as a condition of special medical, discretionary, or mandatory parole that a prisoner released on parole not possess or control firearm ammunition.1

Alaska does not:

  • Require a license for the sale of ammunition;
  • Require sellers of ammunition to maintain a record of the purchasers;
  1. Alaska Stat. 33.16.150(b)(1). []

Trafficking in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

See our Firearms Trafficking policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Alaska law penalizes anyone who:

  • Removes, covers, alters, or destroys the manufacturer’s serial number on a firearm with intent to render the firearm untraceable; or
  • Possesses a firearm on which the manufacturer’s serial number has been removed, covered, altered, or destroyed, knowing that the serial number has been removed, covered, altered, or destroyed with the intent of rendering the firearm untraceable.1

Alaska does not:

  • Prohibit any person from giving false information or offering false evidence of his or her identity in purchasing or otherwise securing delivery of a firearm;
  • Prohibit obtaining a firearm with the intent to provide it to someone the person knows is ineligible to possess a firearm; or
  • Have any other laws aimed at firearms trafficking.
  1. Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(5), (6). []

Microstamping & Ballistic Identification in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Alaska has no law regarding firearm microstamping or ballistic identification.

See our Microstamping / Ballistic Identification policy summary for comprehensive discussions of these issues.

Registration of Firearms in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

There is no statewide registration of firearms in Alaska, and Alaska law forbids any municipality from enacting or enforcing any ordinance regulating the registration of firearms.1

See our Registration of Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Alaska Stat. § 29.35.145(a). []

Licensing of Gun Owners & Purchasers in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Alaska has no law requiring gun owners or purchasers to obtain a license.

See our Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Immunity Statutes in Alaska

Posted on Friday, August 28th, 2015

Alaska law significantly limits civil lawsuits against firearms manufacturers and dealers:

A civil action to recover damages or to seek injunctive relief may not be brought against a person who manufactures or sells firearms or ammunition if the action is based on the lawful sale, manufacture, or design of firearms or ammunition. However, this section does not prohibit a civil action resulting from a negligent design, a manufacturing defect, a breach of contract, or a breach of warranty.1

A person who provides firearm training to a person who receives a permit is not liable for any damage or harm caused by the person receiving the training and permit.2

A person is not liable for any injury or damage resulting from the storage of a firearm in the vehicle of another.3

See the Machine Guns section for the immunity law related to machine guns.

For detailed information about government and private party lawsuits against the gun industry, the status of litigation involving gun industry immunity statutes in various states, or pending gun industry immunity legislation, visit the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence’s Gun Industry Immunity page.

See our Immunity Statutes / Manufacturer Litigation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

  1. Alaska Stat. § 09.65.155. []
  2. Alaska Stat. § 18.65.745(b). []
  3. Alaska Stat. § 18.65.800(c). []