Missing the target

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - 19:00

They’ll get around to that budget eventually.

But first, members of the Alaska Legislature have more important work to do — like passing feel-good legislation designed solely to pander to voters in the next election cycle.

That’s what’s happening with House Bill 69, a measure co-sponsored by all three of our local House members that would make Alaska firearms and firearm accessories exempt from federal regulations and create criminal penalties for federal officials who try to enforce federal law here.

Never mind that the state’s own lawyers say the law would be unconstitutional, or the fact state laws can’t supersede federal ones.

The bill (which was introduced by House Speaker Mike Chenault and co-sponsored by Reps. Bill Stoltze, Dan Saddler and Lora Reinbold, among others) was brought forward as an apparent response to President Obama’s suggestion that the nation should reexamine its gun laws. Legislators apparently want to make criminals out of FBI agents who try to enforce any new laws that might be passed in Congress.

Legislators know such a law would not be enforceable. Yet the measure has flown through committee and gotten support from many House members, who claim they’re trying to prevent the feds from “trampling on the rights of our Second Amendment,” according to Chenault.

Sounds like a great idea, right? After all, folks here in Chugiak-Eagle River tend to hold the Constitution in pretty high esteem — particularly the Second Amendment — and for good reason. The Second Amendment was designed to ensure that Americans always have the right to defend themselves from enemies from both inside and outside our borders.

We believe new gun laws won’t help curb gun violence. After all, criminals don’t follow the law to begin with. Proposed laws that would ban so-called assault weapons or high capacity magazines are simply showpieces that anti-gun advocates want to use to claim they’re “doing something” to help reduce the nation’s violent crime rates. In reality, the nation would be far better served by better enforcement of existing laws and spending more money on mental health and education measures that would address the root causes of the violence.

But to propose a bill that would fly in the face of federal regulations is grandstanding in its own right. Our local legislators know full well that House Bill 69 would have no effect whatsoever on what happens in Alaska. If Congress enacts new gun legislation, the Constitution is clear that the law of the land would apply here. Short of secession, there’s really no way around this.

House members who have signed onto this legislation want to be able to return to Chugiak-Eagle River and tell their constituents that they stood up to President Obama and liberals in Congress who want to take away our guns. They want to come across as strong defenders of the Second Amendment and portray themselves as fighting federal intrusion in Alaska.

They’re playing politics, pure and simple.

House Bill 69 would do nothing to change how the law works in Alaska. If the federal government passes a new gun law, Alaska will have no choice but to abide by it. That’s how the Constitution works. We’d be wise to follow it.

For our local legislators to waste time on a bill designed only to make themselves look good is a waste of the public’s money and an abuse of the public’s trust. There are plenty of real issues facing Alaska that our legislators should be working on; picking a make-believe fight with the feds isn’t one of them.

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