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Self-inflicted Wounds: New Alaska Laws Reject Statehood

06/26/2013 02:58 pm ET | Updated Aug 26, 2013

Last Thursday, Alaska Governor Sean Parnell signed a bunch of legislation into law, using the Mat-Su Valley Sportsman's Shooting Range as a backdrop. He defiantly took credit for fending off the expansive federal overreach debilitating the Second Amendment. The fact that such overreach doesn't exist didn't seem to trip him up the slightest bit.

Parnell boldly declared that "In Alaska, our way of life depends on our ability to carry firearms to defend ourselves, provide for our families, and live freely," conjuring up the image of frontier life where we all hunt for each meal while warding off roaming bands of savages trying to kill all women and children.

The reality is that some people do, indeed, depend on firearms for basic necessities. When you live a subsistence lifestyle in the bush, protection and means to acquire food is a reality -- one that we need to protect and uphold. The Second Amendment does that, all on its own, without aid from the governor's mansion or the capitol building in Juneau.

The vast (and increasing) majority of Alaskans, however, do not live in this frontier. We live in urban centers. Forty percent of the state's population lives in Anchorage alone, flush with grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and box stores that provide abundant alternatives to walk-into-the-woods-and-shoot-dinner (which we also enjoy doing, but largely as a luxury). But Parnell and his legislative allies have grown accustomed to doing whatever they want, relying on buzzwords like "freedom" and "liberty" while enacting policies that put both in jeopardy.

Here's what just became law in Alaska.

House Bill 24.

HB 24 has been Mat-Su Valley state representative Mark Neumann's pet project for three years running. The wild legislative majorities afforded the Republican Party resulting from our still-unconstitutional districts (redrawn heavily last year) finally gave him the votes to pass the bill. It is a Stand Your Ground Law that, as Neumann repeated incessantly during the bill's hearings, grants Alaskans the right to act in self defense anywhere they have "a legal right to be."

Neumann ignored the existing self-defense laws which already provide for the use of self-defense, including deadly force (AS.11.81.335). He tossed aside the pleading from the legal community, noted by APRN, to scrap the idea. And he flat-out rejected the testimony of Anchorage Assistant Attorney James Fayette, who was called to appear as an expert witness during hearings on the bill in 2011: "There's not a single member of the prosecution community that supports this. This is a bad idea. This is a dangerous bill...."

Neumann's bill, now signed into law by Governor Parnell, forces victims of violent crimes to prove that their attackers did not act in self-defense -- that it was actually a homicide. Being that people who are shot and killed make poor witnesses in court, this tends to be problematic.

Senate President Charles Huggins (R-Wasilla) emphasized this tragic misunderstanding of SYG laws by referencing Florida's Trayvon Martin case.

Alaska Public reported Huggins' description of the case: "Trayvon Martin was not a clean-cut young man. He had a history. So I'm not so sure that there wasn't some mischief that he had proved himself capable of and may have been gettin' ready to take place."

Racist undertone aside, the Alaska State Senate President's comments highlight the vigilantism that SYG laws codify. Whether or not Martin was "clean cut" or had the proclivity to get into "some mischief" has nothing to do with the fact that he was unarmed and murdered. Personal disapproval of someone's physical appearance is not how we adjudicate capital punishment.

HB24 does not protect the Second Amendment and it does not protect Alaskans wherever they have the right to be. As Think Progress noted Friday:

[SYG] laws have cleared those involved in fatal shootings of any criminal liability, and pave the way for arbitrary determinations of guilt and innocence that can facilitate racial bias. Studies have shown that Stand Your Ground laws are discriminatory, associated with higher homicide rates, and don't deter crime.

House Bill 69.

HB69 made huge waves when it was initially rolled out by the Speaker of the House, Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) back in January. Its purpose was simple: Nullify any future federal regulations on firearms and arrest any federal officer attempting to enforce said regulations. That legislation passed the house with baffling bipartisan support.

In the upper chamber, Senator John Coghill (R-North Pole) applied some fresh edits that kept the anti-federalist rhetoric, but cleaned up the whole "wildly unconstitutional" problem with Chenault's proposal to arrest federal agents.

That version of the nullification law, signed by Parnell on Wednesday, is better described as a "pacifism law." It prohibits "state and municipal agencies from using assets to implement or aid in the implementation of the requirements of certain federal statutes, regulations, rules, and orders that are applied to infringe on a person's right to bear arms."

We have disallowed the state of Alaska from working with the United States.

House Bill 83.

HB83 was cosponsored by 50 percent of the Alaska State House of Representatives and one-quarter of the senate. The bill begins by recognizing the United States Constitution's Supremacy Clause, and then asserts a new state's right to ignore it entirely by establishing a judicial review process vested in the legislature.

Alaska's elected officials have empowered themselves to work in coordination with the attorney general to decipher whether or not a given federal law is constitutional or not. Presto, chango! Our state senate and house judiciary committees have magically assumed the authority of the Supreme Court!

Alaska v. United States.

These three bills were flanked by other nonbinding resolutions. One invited outside gun manufacturers, who felt slighted by gun control discussions, to move to Alaska. A second exempted knives from federal regulations and allowed minors to purchase them, with written parental consent. Another urged Congress to disallow executive orders pertaining to firearms, and a final one lauded Parnell's efforts to protect our state from the feds.

The signing of these bills into law is the closest any state has come to seceding. One resolution went so far as to urge the federal government to "recede." We have officially adopted laws asserting autonomy and authority over the union of which we are a part, to which we pledge allegiance to.

These bills do not protect Alaska, they threaten her. Claiming that the legislature and Parnell administration's actions protect the Second Amendment is like saying that screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater protects the First Amendment. These are inflammatory, secessionist laws; anti-American and legitimately threatening to Alaska's future stability and prosperity. All for the sake of scoring cheap political points.

To assert supremacy over the United States -- over We the People -- endangers the liberties and freedoms secured for us in the US Constitution. Alaskans should be ashamed of what we've allowed to happen, and of those officials, in both parties, who participated in this travesty.