A few days ago, I broke the story that a problematic oversight had been discovered in the recently passed House Bill 1169– otherwise known as Constitutional Carry. That oversight has to do with carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle and is found in the following section of the North Dakota Century Code:
“62.1-02-10. Carrying loaded firearm in certain vehicles prohibited – Penalty – Exceptions. “An individual may not keep or carry a loaded firearm in or on any motor vehicle, including an off-highway vehicle or snowmobile in this state. An individual violating this section is guilty of a class B misdemeanor. This prohibition does not apply to:
“1. A member of the armed forces of the United States or national guard, organized reserves, state defense forces, or state guard organizations while possessing the firearm issued to the member by the organization and while on official duty.
“2. A law enforcement officer.
“3. An individual possessing a valid concealed weapons license from this state or who has reciprocity under section 62.1-04-03.1 with a handgun, or with a rifle or shotgun if not in the field hunting or trapping.” (Emphasis Added) The difference between “loaded” and “unloaded” is also defined in the North Dakota Century Code Section 62.1-01-01:
“17. “Unloaded” means the chamber of the firearm does not contain a loaded shell. If the firearm is a revolver, then none of the chambers in the cylinder may contain a loaded shell.” So, with that as our foundation, what is the problem in relation to Constitutional Carry? The problem is that the final version of Constitutional Carry – the one passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Doug Burgum – does not address carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
In short, the requirement that one must possess “a valid concealed weapons license” to carry loaded in a vehicle is still maintained in the law .
So, what are the potential ramifications if a person is caught carrying concealed in a vehicle – with a loaded firearm – and no concealed carry permit? That person could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
Ever since I broke the story on this, news outlets have picked it up and published their own articles on the subject. Many people have commented on my article and inquired who was responsible for the oversight.
In trying to find out who was responsible, I obtained a copy of the minutes from the committee meetings on HB 1169. And I believe I now have some answers.
First, I want to make something absolutely clear. The sponsor of HB 1169, Rep. Rick C. Becker (R – District 7), had it right in the original version of the bill . The original version called for the repeal of Section 62.1-02-10– which is the aforementioned section on carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle. You can see this in the original bill– lines 4, 5, 6, 26, and 27:
As you can clearly see, the version originally presented by Rep. Becker called for repeal in the introduction and in the final section of the bill.
So, where did the problem come in? According to the minutes from the House Energy and Natural Resources committee meetings, on February 2, 2017 a subcommittee met to discuss the following:
There are at least three important things we can gather from the minutes of February 2nd shown above. First, that the issue of carrying a loaded weapon without a permit was discussed. Second, the issue of “hoghousing” the bill was also a matter of discussion. And for those who aren’t familiar with the term “hoghouse”, here is a definition from the South Dakota Glossary of Legislative Terms:
The third important point we can gather from the minutes is that there is no record of who said what during discussion in this committee meeting. I find this odd, because all other minutes, for all the other meetings, tell us what was said and who said it. But not on February 2nd.
One of the subcommittee members present at that February 2nd meeting – that we have no idea what was said or who said it – was Rep. Pat Heinert (R – District 32). If you didn’t know already, Rep. Heinert is also known as Sheriff Heinert to those that live in Burleigh County. I’d be very interested to know if he made any comments in that meeting. And if so, what were they? After all, we would expect something to be said from a Sheriff on the topic of loaded weapons in vehicles. Though I would certainly admit that to be speculative.
The House subcommittee met again on February 9, 2017. And then on February 16, 2017, the full committee met again. And look what happens immediately after Committee Chairman Rep. Todd Porter (R – District 34) calls the meeting to order:
As you can see, the Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Mike Lefor (R – District 37), proposes “a hoghouse amendment” to the bill. After some discussion on another issue, Rep. Lefor motions that the hoghouse amendment he proposed earlier be accepted:
As you can see, Rep. George Keiser (R – District 47) seconds the motion and it carries on voice vote. Rep. Lefor then recommends a “Do Pass” on the hoghoused HB 1169, it too is seconded, and passes by a vote of 12 – 0 with 2 absent.
With the hoghouse amendment now passed – and the proposed repeal of the section regarding loaded firearms in vehicles now removed – the bill was introduced on March 14, 2017 by Rep. Todd Porter to the Senate Judiciary Committee whose chairman is Senator Kelly Armstrong (R – District 36)– who also happens to be a lawyer.
You can clearly see here that the repeal language of Section 62.1-02-10 is now gone:
On March 20, 2017 the Senate Judiciary Committee met again and HB 1169 received a “Do Pass” recommendation by a roll call vote of 4 – 2.
Just this afternoon, The Forum’s John Hageman reported that two North Dakota legislators have requested an Attorney General’s opinion on this issue. Those two legislators are Rep. Todd Porter and Senator Kelly Armstrong. The same two that chaired the House and Senate committees on the Constitutional Carry bill.
Rep. Porter’s comments to the Forum are interesting:
“From a legislative standpoint, we don’t think we missed it, but it is unclear. So we don’t want anybody to risk themselves getting criminal charges against them.”
With all due respect to Rep. Porter – who was also a co-sponsor on the bill – I’m not sure how he can claim that they didn’t miss it. Rep. Becker originally had it in there. The committee removed it. Does this happen by accident? Or was it intentional? Without discussion notes in the minutes of the February 2nd subcommittee meeting, we can’t know for sure.
I must admit that I am surprised that Senator Armstrong didn’t catch this. Considering the fact that the original bill had it right and the hoghoused bill didn’t, I would have thought, that given his legal background, he would have caught this. But he didn’t.
It seems we will now wait for Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to “weigh in” on this. But from everything I can see, the committee themselves screwed up the original intent of Rep. Becker’s bill by creating the inconsistency in relation to loaded firearms in vehicles. And rather than trying to save face for the error in their hoghouse amendment, I’d like to see the committee members own the mistake and commit to fixing it in 2019. We call that leadership.
In the meantime, and because the Constitutional Carry law went into effect today, I will suggest what I have before… don’t carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle unless you have a concealed weapons permit.