Fittingly, the bill introduced Friday that would prohibit the University of Alaska Board of Regents from banning concealed weapons on campus actually is the result of campus discussions.
Intern Hans Rodvik approached Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, about the proposal earlier this session. The Senate majority leader agreed to carry SB176 under one condition — Rodvik would be in charge of seeing it through the legislative process.
“The university created a policy contradictory to state law,” Coghill said. “We’re asking them to give us a good reason the right to bear arms should be infringed.”
In addition to barring the University of Alaska Board of Regents from prohibiting the concealed carry of firearms, the proposal forbids any policy from being adopted that is not identical to state law.
“We’re talking about the fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” said Rodvik, a junior political science major at the Anchorage campus. “The Board of Regents is flat out ignoring the constitution and state law.”
A news release from Coghill’s office states: “Current state law does not prohibit law abiding citizens from carrying concealed firearms on UA Campuses.”
The bill does allow for exceptions, however.
For example, university officials can prohibit firearms and knives in restricted areas in certain buildings — areas that require some sort of security clearance before entering.
University officials can also ban the discharge of a firearm, so long as the policy allows for the firearm to be used in a self-defense situation.
“The Alaska Constitution affords us many rights, including the right to carry a firearm,” Coghill said in the news release. “Individuals do not lose the right to bear a concealed firearm simply because they enter a public university.”
Aside from one intimidation case, the University of Alaska, Southeast campus did not have any criminal or hate crimes committed in 2010 or 2012. In 2011, there were three robberies on campus or in residential facilities.
The Fairbanks campus has not been as fortunate. From 2010 to 2012, UAF police reported 26 cases of forcible sexual assault, two cases on non-forcible sexual assault and 14 burglaries.
UAF also experienced a motor vehicle theft on campus in 2011, and three cases of aggravated assault over the three-year span.
The UA campus in Alaska’s largest city reported eight forcible sex assault cases from 2010 to 2012, along with four burglary cases and six aggravated assaults.
Over the three-year span, UAA police reported a robbery, motor vehicle theft and 273 larceny thefts, according to crime data reports from the UA system websites.
Sill, in light of the rash of mass shootings across the country over the last several years, Coghill said allowing students to carry on campus could deter such a tragedy from happening in Alaska.
“In the most horrific shootings, often times (the shooters) have lost their cognitive thinking abilities and they may have some mental problems,” Coghill said. “They go to places where people can’t defend themselves, and campuses are a prime target.”
University officials hadn’t evaluated the entirety of the bill when reached for comment Friday afternoon, but did defend the policy that has been in place since 1995 that bans concealed carry on campus.
“The university considers itself to be similarly situated to other places where weapons are not allowed,” said Kate Wattum, the assistant director of public affairs for the University of Alaska system.
Wattum explained that high school tours and other visitation events often have children on campus like a K-12 campus might, and that there are daycares and places that sell liquor on or near campuses.
“Dorms are not really considered to be safe places for weapons storage as well,” Wattum continued. “Students tend to leave those unlocked, there are a number of visitors in-and-out and older students may have alcohol inside.”
The Board of Regents will be in discussions with campus administration personnel as the bill makes its way through the Legislature, Wattum said.
The legislation was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is awaiting being scheduled for its first hearing.
The idea for SB176 was formed on the University of Alaska, Anchorage campus last fall when Rodvik learned he had been accepted for the internship with Coghill’s office for the second year of the 28th Legislature.
“It really came out of the student body,” Coghill said.