I read Mr. Kevin Maier's commentary (March 7) opposing Senate Bill 174, "An act relating to the regulation of firearms and knives by the University of Alaska" and felt compelled to offer an alternative point of view. The majority of Maier's commentary covered his hunting and fishing guide background, the commendable firearms safety training he is providing his 8-year-old son and the use of pepper spray for bear protection when fishing.
Like Maier, I also am a hunter, fisherman, father and grandfather who has taught my children and grandchildren to safely handle firearms and yes, even pepper spray. Where I differ from Maier's perspective is that SB 174 has nothing to do with the family hunting tradition and desire to pass this heritage down to our children. It is much more basic than that. It is about every human's right to protect themselves -- that we have always had -- even before there was a Constitution or Second Amendment.
The university or other business establishments that believe their students, employees or customers are somehow "safe" hiding behind the "No Guns Allowed" sticker or policy are grossly misguided. Their apparent desire to "protect" those on their property from an active shooter/terrorist is actually doing the opposite. Their policy effectively takes away our God-given right to defend ourselves while at the same time offering anyone who wishes us harm an invitation to a "free fire zone." The honest citizen will obey the policy but it is sheer ignorance to think a terrorist or criminal with a gun will turn around and leave when they see the "No Guns Allowed" sign on the door.
The active-shooter seminar put on here in Anchorage by the FBI last summer covered details of numerous active-shooter tragedies in the U.S., the background of the shooters and more importantly, how they were stopped. The vast majority of these tragedies occurred in "gun free zones" where there was little or no chance the shooter would be confronted or stopped until the police arrived because those inside were not allowed to defend themselves. The FBI described the shooters as basically cowards, because again in the majority of cases, once they encountered resistance by an armed citizen or by the police (once they arrived minutes later), the shooters either gave up, were shot or committed suicide.
Alaska currently is an open-carry state. However, I believe open carry, when not out in the hunting or hiking setting, is unwise for many reasons, plus it just plain scares folks when they see someone with a gun on their hip in the store. While the state does not require a concealed handgun permit for individuals 21 and older who can legally possess a firearm to carry concealed, I believe the Legislature and university would be wise to allow Alaska concealed handgun permit holders to carry concealed on campus. They are not teenagers just out of high school, but adults who have passed a background check, taken and passed the required 12-hour course required by the state, which includes a 2- to 3-hour presentation by an attorney or law enforcement officer on Alaska laws and statutes regarding use of force and use of lethal force. They also must demonstrate safe handling of firearms and successfully complete the required course of fire at the range to pass.
How many tragic shooting events must we repeat before we recognize that bad guys or gals intent on harm will not change their minds or plans in fear because we have a "no gun policy" or sticker on the door? Just the opposite is more likely, as they know there will be little or no resistance for many minutes in this "free fire zone" until the police arrive. All the hunter-education courses, family fishing/hunting trips or bear pepper spray (probably against university policy anyway) will do nothing to stop an active shooter. There is only one thing that will stop a bad guy or gal with a gun -- that is a good guy or gal with a gun.
Mike Rawalt is a hunter, fisherman, retired Army officer, certified National Rifle Association firearms instructor and certified Alaska Concealed Carry course instructor. He lives in Anchorage.
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