Gun bills drawing a crowd

The North Dakota Senate expects a big crowd this week when it discusses several gun-rights bills, and for good reason.

One measure to be considered would allow a concealed-carry permit holder to carry a gun at public gatherings, schools and churches if officials from those locations allow it and the proper law enforcement agencies are notified. Another measure would allow people to have a gun in public during a declared state of emergency, and give gun owners the right to sue if the government tries to confiscate weapons or ammunition during the emergency. The bills have already been passed by the House.

The number of concealed weapons permits in North Dakota has quadrupled in the past 10 years, to a total of more than 22,000. The State Bureau of Criminal Investigation reports it issued 12,614 concealed carry permits in 2012, a dramatic jump from the 5,634 issued in 2011.

Legislation allowing concealed weapons in schools with permission also includes another issue:?School boards would be able to discuss in secret whether to approve requests to carry concealed weapons, rather than having that discussion during an open meeting. That’s unacceptable in a state that prides itself on having a history of strong open record and open meeting laws. The public has the right to know if a public school approves or rejects a policy allowing concealed weapons on school property. Even if the bill is approved, the language allowing discussion in secret should be removed.

As the state and its residents contend with exploding population growth and the accompanying change in crime rates, gun rights are going to continue to be hot topics at the Legislature. We look forward to the debate this week in?Bismarck.