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Tribune editorial: Don’t tamper with state’s weapons law

Tribune editorial: Don’t tamper with state’s weapons law

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North Dakota isn’t the Old West anymore, though the state had a taste of those wild times during the early stages of the oil boom. Thankfully, things have returned to a quieter normalcy.

The Tribune editorial board doesn’t see a need to take any action that would disrupt that normalcy. We believe House Bill 1339, which would have cut nearly two dozen items from the state’s list of dangerous weapons, would have had a negative impact on the state.

The bill has been changed into a proposed study that would look at the definition of “dangerous weapons” and define whether public gatherings include athletic events, school buildings and churches.

In its original form the bill also would have allowed adults to carry hidden firearms at sporting and athletic events. In 2017, legislation was approved allowing most people 18 and older to carry a hidden firearm without a permit. It made North Dakota at the time one of about a dozen “constitutional carry” states.

Firearms can’t be legally carried at some places including sporting and athletic events, schools, public buildings and churches, unless a church gives permission. These are logical exceptions to the law.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Luke Simons, R-Dickinson, would have removed a variety of weapons including switchblades, swords, daggers, metal knuckles, slingshots and martial arts items like “throwing stars” off the dangerous list.

“There has never been a robbery with a throwing star,” Simons told a House committee this week. A potential robbery isn’t the only reason these items are listed as dangerous. They could be used to harm someone during a bar fight or at a disturbance at an athletic event.

Unfortunately, some fans can get very heated during sporting or athletic events. Allowing them to carry concealed weapons to such events could result in serious injuries or deaths. Law enforcement and school officials mostly opposed taking the items off the dangerous list.

Supporters of the hidden carry law argue it promotes the constitutional right to bear arms and provides protection from criminals.

However, many people don’t feel safer knowing some in an audience or crowd may be carrying a weapon. They are concerned about accidents or bystanders being injured if someone intervenes in an altercation or ongoing crime. In fact, the need for someone to intervene with a gun is rare in North Dakota.

The Tribune sees no need to legalize the hidden carry of weapons to sporting and athletic events. Weapons don’t have a place at events where passions run high. Many of these events have security present.

Legislators should reject the proposed study. It doesn’t make sense to remove items from the dangerous list. They are on the list because they can be used to do harm.

North Dakota has been fortunate to be spared violence at heavily-attended events. The present hidden carry law remains adequate. There’s no reason to expand where weapons can be carried or take weapons off the dangerous list. The Legislature needs to reject the proposed study.

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