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Concealed-carry expansion bill passes in North Dakota Senate

BISMARCK – State senators voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to expand the places where a concealed weapons license holder can legally carry a firearm to include public parks, political rallies and public rest areas.

The Senate voted 45-2 to pass House Bill 1241, which bill carrier Sen. Kelly Armstrong said clarifies, simplifies and expands gun rights in North Dakota.

“Concealed weapons permit holders are not the problem. They’re the good guys. They’re the ones who are the law-abiding citizens,” he said.

The bill removes political rallies or functions, musical concerts, publicly owned parks and publicly owned or operated rest areas or restrooms from the list of places and events where it’s currently a Class B misdemeanor to possess a firearm or dangerous weapon.

It would still be illegal to carry a firearm in a school, publicly owned or operated building or a church without the church’s permission.

The legislation, which combines parts of three bills passed by the House, also removes single-shot projectile stun guns from the dangerous weapons law, allowing them to be carried for personal protection without a concealed weapons license.

Armstrong, an attorney, said the devices are still dangerous and using one inappropriately can result in a felony charge.

“So be careful, be responsible, and I think the citizens of North Dakota are,” he said.

The bill also allows license holders to carry a concealed weapon in liquor stores, allows short-barreled rifles to be used for hunting, makes Class 1 and Class 2 concealed weapons licenses equally valid and authorizes the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation to disclose to applicants the reason why their license was denied or revoked.

Senators also voted 39-2 to approve House Bill 1450, which would allow college and university employees and students to keep firearms secured in their locked vehicles on campus.

Sen. Jessica Unruh, R-Beulah, said many people commute to and from classes, and the bill protects their constitutional right to self-protection. She said it also will allow college students and employees to keep a shotgun in their car “alongside their hip waders and duck decoys” so they can go hunting right after class.

“This does not allow them to carry the gun throughout campus. This just simply allows them to consider their vehicle basically their home,” she said.

Sen. Philip Murphy, D-Portland, who cast the lone dissenting vote in the 6-1 do-pass recommendation from the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the idea that every student and employee would be allowed to store a gun on campus “is a little off-putting to some degree.” He said the decision should be left in the hands of higher education officials.

The bill also changes the definition of “unloaded” so that a firearm with a removable magazine or clip is considered unloaded if it has loaded shells in the magazine or clip but not in the chamber.  

The two bills now return to the House, which can either concur with the Senate amendments or request a conference committee with three members from each chamber to work out the differences.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.