Alaska Senate votes to allow concealed guns on UA campuses

JUNEAU —A bill that would allow concealed guns on University of Alaska campuses is headed to the state House after senators passed the measure Thursday.

The bill strips the University of Alaska Board of Regents' ability to designate broad concealed-weapon free zones on its campuses, allowing them to be carried in classrooms and dorms. It does allow the university to restrict them in areas where disciplinary actions or sexual harassment and domestic crimes are investigated.

It also allows the university to track which students keep weapons in dorms in order to make housing decisions for students who don't want to share rooms those who have firearms.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, said gun-free zones on campuses make them targets for killers. He highlighted the growing number of mass shootings in the United States in recent years.

"I don't want the students and the faculty at the University of Alaska to be a soft target as the dial seems to be ratcheted up over the last few years," he said.

The measure passed by a vote of 13-5.

Students have testified on both sides of the issue. Supporters of the bill said they want to be able to protect themselves on campus.


Others, such as University of Alaska Southeast student Lily Pothier, cautioned lawmakers against assuming concealed weapons would make students as a whole feel safer.

"This could affect relationships between student to student, between staff to student," she testified to the education committee. "I also think that the change that happens in the atmosphere of a public space when people are aware that there are concealed weapons is not a positive change."

Voting yes: Sens. John Coghill, R-North Pole; Mia Costello, R-Anchorage; Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla; Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage; Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla; Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks; Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River; Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage; Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage; Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna; Bert Stedman, R-Sitka; Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak; Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage.

Voting no: Sens. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks; Dennis Egan, D-Juneau; Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage; Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel; Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. Sen. Johnny Ellis, D-Anchorage, was excused, and Sen. Donny Olson, R-Golovin, was absent.

In the U.S., at least 19 states ban concealed weapons on college campuses, 23 states allow individual universities to decide whether to allow concealed weapons, according to a 2015 guns on campuses overview from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Texas, under a law that goes into effect Aug. 1, licensed gun owners will be able to carry concealed handguns on public university campuses. That measure has caused alarm for some faculty members at the University of Houston who told its regents staff some sensitive subjects could become taboo in the classroom if students began bringing guns to class.