For the second straight Legislative Session, Senator Oley Larsen’s simple bill regarding concealed weapons permits has been hijacked. In 2017, Senator Larsen proposed Senate Bill 2139. The original intent was to allow those who are caught carrying a concealed weapon without their permit to produce one within 10 days of the violation in order to avoid criminal charges. But an unrelated amendment was tacked on by the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee to add “an elected official” to the list of exceptions for carrying a weapon at public gatherings.
The Senate version of SB 2139 easily passed that legislative body by a vote of 44-2. But with the House amendment, the Senate killed the bill by a margin of 3-43 after failing to come to an agreement over differences with the House in conference committee. The outcome wasn’t a surprise to us. Prior to its defeat, we had published an article predicting that the House amendment may ultimately sink the bill.
Not to be deterred by the 2017 hijacking and subsequent defeat, Senator Larsen brought his bill back for the 2019 Legislative Session. This time it is Senate Bill 2140. Just like it did two years ago, the Senate version of the bill passed on a vote of 44-2. Only this time it allows 30 days instead of 10 for those who are caught without their permit. For those utilizing Constitutional Carry, their “permit” is a valid driver’s license or non-driver identification card.
Unfortunately, just as they did in 2017, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee couldn’t leave the bill alone. They’ve once again added an amendment that has nothing to do with the original intent of the bill. It reads:
“Notwithstanding section 19-24.1-37, upon request from the bureau of criminal investigation, the department shall disclose the name, date of birth, and driver’s license number of all registered qualifying patients for the sole purpose of determining eligibility and compliance with chapter 62.1-04.”
The first section of the North Dakota Century Code identified in the amendment is the confidentiality section of the medical marijuana law. And the second is in relation to possessing a concealed weapon.
So, what does the amendment mean? If signed into law in its current form, those who register as “qualifying patients” under North Dakota’s medical marijuana law will have their “name, date of birth, and driver’s license number” turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for the “sole purpose” of determining whether they can legally possess a firearm. Quite simply— according to federal law, if you’re a medical marijuana user, you can’t have a gun, which means you can’t conceal carry in North Dakota. By the way, violating the law can result in a maximum of 10 years in prison.
An illustration of just how problematic this discrepancy between state and federal law might be also came during the aforementioned floor debate. It happened when Rep. Greg Westlind (R – District 15) had this exchange with Rep. Todd Porter (R – District 34)— who is also Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee:
“Representative Porter, would BCI — after they had possession of this [information] and they found out that somebody was not in compliance or had a concealed weapon permit — would they go out to that person’s house and confiscate the weapon?”
Rep Porter’s response:
“Mr. Speaker and Representative Westlind, they certainly could— based on my information or my knowledge of the bill. They would be deemed to be a felon inside of the federal government, because they did not comply with the gun owner laws of the United States of America. So, they certainly could.
“It would be my hope that they wouldn’t and that they would send a letter out and tell them they have both licenses or permits — they have the medical marijuana card and they have the concealed weapons card — and you need to turn one back in, you can’t have them both, would be my hopes.
“But they would not be using it from the standpoint — and I want to be clear on your question — they wouldn’t be using it from the standpoint that they look at that card, and see Joe Smith on the card, and then going out to see if Joe Smith has a gun. That’s not the purpose of the amendment, and that’s not how the amendment works. The amendment just allows them inside of the concealed carry permit database to make sure that there aren’t names that are on both lists is what the amendment does.”
I don’t know about you, but Rep. Porter’s response certainly wouldn’t bring me a lot of comfort if I were the medical marijuana user with a gun. Porter can hope all he wants, but at the end of the day he isn’t the one who makes the determination at BCI of how they utilize this information. And he’s right— under this amendment they most definitely could use the information as a confiscation tool.
For example, look at the law mentioned in the amendment— section 62.1-04. More specifically, look at this verbiage from 62.1-04-03, section 9:
“Information collected from an applicant under this section is confidential information. However, the information may be disclosed:
a. To a governmental agency or court for a law enforcement purpose, including the investigation, prosecution, or punishment of a violation of law.”
Intentional or not, the amendment itself literally lays the groundwork for BCI to have all the information it needs to confiscate a medical marijuana cardholders guns as part of a legal proceeding for violation of federal law.
I should also point out that justification for the amendment was made on the basis that the state needs to protect its reciprocity with 39 other states for concealed weapons permits.
An interesting side note to all of this was shared by Rep. Rick Becker (R – District 7). He pointed out that there were two bills this Legislative Session that dealt with this very issue. The first was House Bill 1148, which would have written it into state law that “a person authorized to possess medical marijuana… is not precluded from possessing a firearm or dangerous weapon.” That bill failed miserably on a vote of 6-85. The second was House Bill 1309, which would have prohibited our law enforcement from enforcing gun laws that are more restrictive than North Dakota’s. That bill also failed by a vote of 30-62.
Let’s suppose that Rep. Porter’s hopes are realized and that our current Attorney General and BCI honor the intent of simply protecting our reciprocity and don’t take the steps to utilize this amendment as a confiscation tool. That’s all well and good, but who’s to say that future Attorney Generals and BCI officials will do the same? Remember, this amendment does nothing to prohibit them from utilizing it for confiscation purposes. In fact, by Rep. Porter’s own admission, it could actually authorize the sharing of information that empowers them to do just that.
For the second Legislative Session in a row, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee has unnecessarily hijacked Senator Oley Larsen’s bill. Only this time, I think it has a very good chance of actually passing with the amendment. And that has the potential of being very problematic for those gun owners who also want to use medical marijuana.
Note: If you would like to see SB 2140 defeated in its current form, you will need to contact your Senator ASAP. The bill will now go to the Senate. If they concur with the House amendment, it will go to the governor. If they don’t concur, it will go to Conference Committee in an attempt for the two chambers to hammer out their differences.
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