JUNEAU -- A Republican legislator who is part of the state Senate leadership said Tuesday that he is looking into whether guns should be allowed in the state Capitol.
State Sen. John Coghill of Fairbanks is sponsoring legislation this year to allow firearms on University of Alaska campuses, overriding a university system regulation against guns on campus. The university system is fighting his bill.
Asked how he justified allowing guns on campuses when they are barred in the Capitol except for law enforcement, Coghill said he had just been talking with Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage and the Rules Committee chairwoman, about that very issue.
"I'm actually open to discussion for carrying within the Capitol," Coghill, the GOP majority leader, said. Limits on guns should be the "least restrictive" possible and should be the result of a "compelling public interest" in public safety, he said, describing the test being used by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs and McGuire serves on, in evaluating his gun measure, Senate Bill 176.
Any change in gun policy in the Capitol would probably need to go before the Legislative Council, the joint House-Senate committee that conduct the Legislature's business, he said. It may make sense to prevent guns in the galleys where members of the public sit during House and Senate floor sessions, he said.
Coghill said he didn't carry a gun in the Capitol. The other three Republican senators -- Mike Dunleavy of Wasilla, Anna Fairclough of Eagle River and Cathy Giessel of Anchorage -- who came to Tuesday's Senate press availability declined to comment when asked about that.
By LISA DEMER