Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo) wanted to improve security in North Dakota’s public buildings by allowing elected officials to carry concealed. To that end he introduced HB1257. Currently concealed carry isn’t allowed at all in the state’s public buildings, up to and including the capitol. Koppelman’s bill, as amended, would have allowed elected and appointed officials to carry concealed in all public buildings except for secure court areas.
It failed on a narrow 45-47 vote.
“Both proponents and opponents utilized the same rationale, safety,” said Rep. Kathy Hawken (R-Fargo) who carried the House Judiciary Committee’s “do not pass” recommendation to the House floor. She stated that the Highway Patrol, which provides security at the state capitol, opposed the bill. Hawken said the committee concluded that “we were probably safer if we left the guns to the Highway Patrol.”
Speaking in defense of his own bill, Ben Koppelman argued that it would be a way to make the state’s public buildings more secure without adding a lot of annoying security measures. “If you look at our capitol and how open many of our buildings are you don’t see metal detectors,” he said.
“I for one don’t want to see metal detectors or mass amounts of armed guards,” he added.
He also pointed out that the Highway Patrol isn’t always present in the legislative chambers. “I’m sure they would do their best to get here quickly,” Koppelman said, referring to the possibility of a shooter in the legislative chambers, “but that might be after a few clips are emptied.”
Rep. Diane Larson (R-Bismarck) said she supports the idea of expanding concealed carry rights, but she voted against the bill in committee. “This carves out an elite group of people who can concealed carry,” she said. “That’s the reason I voted no.”
Rep. Kim Koppelman (R-West Fargo) said that wasn’t the intent of the bill. “The thinking was not to create an elite class,” he said. “The thinking was to protect those who work in this fishbowl.”
Rep. Bill Amerman (D-Forman) said that he didn’t want to give terrorists a win by increasing the number of armed citizens walking around. “If they make you change your way of thinking to where you start carrying guns, terrorism wins,” he said.
That seems a bit off the wall. I support the idea of expanding concealed carry, but I don’t like the idea of expanding it just to the political elite. If we want to make our public buildings more secure, why not let everyone concealed carry there?