Video: North Dakota House Passes Three Gun Deregulation Bills, Votes Down Two Others


The North Dakota House voted on a slew of gun bills today.

Here’s what passed and what did not.

Concealed Carry

The laws around carrying concealed weapons can be complicated, but HB1169 is really a pretty simple bill. It makes it “legal for any individual who is not otherwise precluded by law to carry concealed with a driver’s license,” as bill carrier Rep. Mike Lefor (R-Dickinson) stated during the floor debate.

That means a person must be 18 years old, a North Dakota resident, able to produce a driver’s license, have no felonies or convictions for violent crimes on their record, etc., etc.

The bill doesn’t get rid of the permits. You can still get a Class 1 or Class 2 permit if you wish. It just eliminates the requirement for North Dakota residents carrying in the state.

There was little debate on this bill. The only comments in opposition came from Rep. Greg Westlind, a Republican from Cando, who argued that carrying a concealed weapon is “a privilege.” He also said that he himself is a concealed carry permit holder and thinks people who want to carry concealed should have to undergo some level of training to do so.

Though I’m not sure I understand that. There is no training required to carry a firearm openly. Why require it to carry concealed?

The bill passed 83-9.

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Arming school personnel

UPDATE: I originally wrote that this bill would require that armed school personnel would have to be certified by the South Dakota Sentinel Program and a retired law enforcement officer. That was my error, they can have that certification or be retired law enforcement. I’ve made that correction below.

HB1310 would create a pilot program allowing up to 10 schools to arm personnel for security, but it puts so many requirements on the program you have to wonder how many schools will be willing to jump through the hoops.

One argument we hear a lot is that while the state’s larger, more urban school districts can afford to pay for security patrols by law enforcement, but that option often isn’t available for rural schools. So the idea is that rural schools could identity a member of their staff to carry concealed on school grounds to help provide some security.

But under this bill that person would need to have some 40 hours of training, be certified by the South Dakota Sentinel Program or a retired law enforcement, they must undergo a criminal background check, they must be 21 years old, they must pass a physical and mental screening, they must be approved by the school board, they must be approved by local law enforcement, they must get on-going training from law enforcement, and they must hold a Class 1 concealed carry permit.

Given all those hurdles, how many schools are going to find this practical? Not many, I’d argue. Which is maybe the point. While this bill passed by a wide margin – 73 to 19 – I don’t get the sense that there’s a lot of enthusiasm for schools actually doing this.

Here’s the video of Rep. Pat Heinert (R-Bismarck) carrying the bill on the floor, which is worth watching just to understand this relatively complex piece of policy. There was no debate on the bill:

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Guns in church

HB1273 passed on a 73-19 vote. It loosened up restrictions on guns in church.

The Legislature had previously ended the legal prohibition on having firearms in churches, but put in place a requirement that churches notify law enforcement if they authorize someone to carry. This bill ends that requirement and also puts in place some liability protection from churches, making anyone using a gun on church property responsible for their actions and not the church.

I honestly don’t understand why we would treat churches differently than any other private property. It should be up to a church how, if at all, they allow guns on their property. This is good legislation going in the right direction, but honestly the Legislature ought to just butt out.

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Guns in government buildings

HB1278 would have allowed concealed carry permit holders to carry a weapon in any government building which does not have armed security or a gun detection system.

Bill sponsor, Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo) argued that the only people currently able to carry concealed in government buildings are people who don’t follow the law. But Rep. Todd Porter (R-Mandan) said the “level of confusion that this bill will cause is great.”

He said government buildings such as the Bank of North Dakota don’t currently have security. Rep. Shannon Roers Jones (R-Fargo) also pointed out that places like rural social services offices would have to spend money on security measures in order to prohibit guns.

The bill failed on a 16-76 vote.

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Guns manufactured in state

HB1391, introduced by Rep. Luke Simons of Dickinson, would essentially exempt from federal regulation any firearms that are manufactured in North Dakota. The idea is that because the federal government basis its authority to administer gun control policy on the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution, the feds cannot regulate guns which are not the product of interstate commerce.

Rep. Roers Jones, who carried her committee’s “do not pass” recommendation to the House floor, said the bill would be “in direct contradiction with federal law.” She went on to say that the committee “felt this bill was likely to be declared unconstitutional.”

Which is an ironic stance for a Legislature that is getting ready to affirm the people’s vote to legalize medical marijuana, a drug which is still illegal under federal law.

Federalism is tricky stuff.

The bill failed on a 22-70 vote with no debate:

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