When Constitutional Carry was passed and then signed into law by Governor Doug Burgum on March 23, 2017, many took it as a sign that North Dakota’s lawmakers had become ultra pro-gun. And there’s no question that House Bill 1169’s becoming law was historic. Yet, the actions of the North Dakota House this week on three pieces of gun legislation seems to indicate that perhaps they’re not as pro-gun — or shall we say, pro self-defense — as we might have thought.
The three bills are as follows:
- House Bill 1325 — this bill was sponsored by Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R – District 26) and proposed to add those who qualify for Constitutional Carry to the list of exemptions allowing concealed carry at a “public gathering”— which is defined by the North Dakota Century Code as “an athletic or sporting event, a school, a church, and a publicly owned or operated building.”Rep. Ertelt explained there was concern over the ability of people to carry in some of these areas, so he offered amendments to the bill to resolve those concerns. Primarily, that the owners of affected properties — or the governing bodies that control them — would have to grant permission to carry concealed in these places. But as you can see, if you click on the link to the bill, the committee never even bothered to add the proposed amendments. So, the bill was defeated on a vote of 22-70.
- House Bill 1310 — this bill was sponsored by the Father of Constitutional Carry, Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7), and proposed to add those with a Class 1 concealed weapons license to the list of exemptions allowing concealed carry at a public gathering. As you can see, this bill was similar to Rep. Ertelt’s, but involved the higher threshold of having the Class 1 permit. It met the same fate as HB 1325, but oddly enough by an even wider margin of 13-79.
- House Bill 1497 — this bill was sponsored by Rep. Jeff Magrum (R – District 28) and was known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill. There’s a number of states with variations of this type of law. In a nutshell, it would have expanded on North Dakota’s “castle doctrine”, which says that a person doesn’t have a duty to retreat in their “dwelling, place of work, or occupied motor home or travel trailer”. And that if they have “reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury to that individual or another”, they then have the right to use “deadly force”.As you can see, under current law, a duty to retreat is paramount outside of the “castle” areas. This means that should an individual find themselves in a threatening situation, where their life or the lives of others may be in danger, they must make the split second decision between possible retreat and the use of deadly force. HB 1497 would have removed this duty to retreat altogether. As was pointed out in the floor debate, Stand Your Ground would have put potential victims on a level playing field with their aggressors— something that doesn’t exist now. Unfortunately, the bill was defeated 41-49.
One of the excuses for defeating HB 1325 and HB 1310, concerning concealed carry at public gatherings, was that earlier in the week the House had passed HB 1206. This bill is sponsored by Rep. Todd Porter (R – District 34) and — if it becomes law — will create a new classification of concealed carry known as “Class 1 exempt”, which would add those with this license to the list of exemptions allowing concealed carry at a public gathering. The difference here is that those seeking this license must obtain annual training that’s equivalent to what police and private security officers go through.
While Rep. Porter’s bill is better than nothing, it simply doesn’t go far enough. In reality, Rep. Ertelt’s bill — with amendments — is the answer. Why? Because the fact remains that criminals don’t obey laws. If someone enters one of these “public gatherings”, with the purpose of doing harm to others, current law has stripped the typical citizen of being able to defend themselves without obtaining permission from the Almighty State. Anybody that’s a pro-gun advocate knows this, which is exactly why defeat of these bills is so troubling. This is the North Dakota House— led by a super-majority of so-called Republicans. They should know better.
What we witnessed this week is evidence that the North Dakota House isn’t as pro-gun as many of us had hoped.