North Dakota Highway Patrol: Only Criminals Should Carry Guns On Public Property


Rep. Ben Koppleman has introduced legislation – HB1157 – which would exempt elected officials from state laws banning concealed carry on public property.

As I’ve written previously, I’m not a fan of the bill, only because I have a principled objection to creating extra rights for certain classes of citizens. If the political class can carry concealed on public property, why not the public in general?

Today the legislation was heard in the House Judiciary Committee, and not surprisingly it drew opposition from a number of sources. But this testimony against the bill from the North Dakota Highway Patrol, via Mike Nowtazki’s in-depth report of the hearing, jumped out at me:

Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said a gunman in the House or Senate chambers would create “mass chaos,” and the patrol is concerned that having multiple people drawing weapons would make it hard for officers to identify the real threat.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time to process that through your mind: Is that person an elected official or is that person our suspect or shooter?” he said, offering neutral testimony to the House Judiciary Committee.

This seems like some poor reasoning. While concealed carry is prohibited on public property, among other places, most places where law enforcement officers patrol are places where concealed carry is required.

Is Lt. Iverson suggesting that the 2nd amendment creates “mass chaos?” I would hope that officers, wherever they may be, aren’t assuming that anyone with a gun is a dangerous criminal.

What endangers the capitol more? The idea that concealed carriers may be on hand to respond to a shooter? Or that the capitol is currently a “gun free zone” shooters can target knowing the people are mostly unarmed?

It troubles me that the attitude among law enforcement these days is that citizens shouldn’t be armed. Do you know what we call a society where the only people who are lawfully armed are law enforcement officers?

A police state. And it’s not a good thing.

On a related note, here’s some irony: an amendment to the bill was offered by Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom which would exclude court houses from the definition of public buildings, but as it turns out the law currently allows judges to carry concealed (something I didn’t know):

Supreme Court Justice Dale Sandstrom offered a bill amendment that would exclude court facilities from the definition of public buildings, citing concern about maintaining security in courtrooms. State law allows judges to carry concealed weapons in courthouses, though Sandstrom said, “I don’t know of any judge who’s armed, and I guess I’ve never really quizzed them.”

You learn something new every day.

On another related note, a spokesman for the state’s teacher and public worker unions managed to put his foot squarely in his mouth during testimony against the bill:

Members of North Dakota United, a union representing 11,000 educators and public employees, have “serious concerns” that adjusting the law for lawmakers who meet in regular session for only 80 days every two years “seems a bit troubling, if not aggressive,” said Stuart Savelkoul, assistant executive director.

“There are hundreds of people in this building who would feel less safe with the passage of this bill,” he said.

The committee’s chairman and Koppelman’s father, Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, said Savelkoul’s testimony implied that the group’s members feel threatened by elected officials, and he asked if that was the case. Savelkoul said the general consensus is that fewer guns make for a safer workplace in public buildings.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had any catastrophic events here, and I know that’s what everybody says until there is one,” he said. “But at this point in time, I think our general perception is changing this in this way will do more harm than good.”