House Speaker Cathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican, listens Monday morning to amendments to a bill she sponsored that seeks to bar the state and local governments in Alaska from mandating restrictions or closures to firearms and retailers in the event of a disaster. (Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire)

House Speaker Cathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican, listens Monday morning to amendments to a bill she sponsored that seeks to bar the state and local governments in Alaska from mandating restrictions or closures to firearms and retailers in the event of a disaster. (Clarise Larson/ Juneau Empire)

Bill disallowing firearm restrictions during emergencies moves toward third reading

It’s expected to have its final reading Wednesday.

A bill that seeks to bar the state and local governments in Alaska from mandating restrictions or closures to firearms and retailers in the event of a disaster is set to have its final reading Wednesday after being advanced by the state House after a series of failed and tabled amendments Monday morning.

The bill, sponsored by House Speaker Cathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican, is largely considered to be in response to mandated closures of firearm retailers and other entities that were deemed non-essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Tilton’s sponsor statement on the bill, she argues that the bill would reaffirm Alaska residents’ right to “survive and protect themselves” and stop government “infringement on the right to keep and bear arms” when a disaster emergency is declared.

If passed, in the event of a future disaster emergency both state or municipal agencies in Alaska would be disallowed from placing restrictions on the possession, use or transfer of a firearm, firearm accessory, ammunition, or other weapons for personal use unless the restrictions are applied to all other commerce.

Similar bills have passed in states like North Dakota, West Virginia, Georgia and South Dakota, and a version of the bill was introduced by the Senate last session by Sen. Robert Myers, a North Pole Republican. It failed by two votes on the final day of the session.

In written testimony sent to the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee in March, Alexandria Weddell of Skagway expressed opposition to the bill, describing it as “frivolous” and said it “truthfully does not make much sense.”

“I do not see how this makes anyone safer during an emergency and moreover, during times of emergencies our communities do NOT need laws and rules limiting what our bodies of government can do,” she stated.

Jon and Ruth Ewig, of Fairbanks, disagreed, and in written testimony voiced their support for the bill, arguing the bill solidifies the right to bear arms in a disaster.

“Governments do not grant or take away our God-given rights,” the letter stated. “Governments are supposed to protect our inalienable rights which are from God.”

The bill is expected to have its third reading Wednesday.

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• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807.

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