Article I, § 19 of the Alaska Constitution provides:
“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The individual right to keep and bear arms shall not be denied or infringed by the State or a political subdivision of the State.”
Alaska courts have held that the right conferred by art. I, § 19 is not absolute and may be regulated by the state legislature. In Gibson v. State, the court of appeals rejected an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Statutes § 11.61.210(a)(1), prohibiting persons from possessing a firearm on the person or having a firearm in the interior of a vehicle in which they are present, or when they are physically or mentally impaired by liquor or a controlled substance.1 The court found that art. I, § 19:
“[W]as not intended to eliminate government regulation of people’s possession and use of firearms. Rather, the government retains the authority to enact and enforce laws prohibiting people from possessing firearms when there is a significant risk that they will use those firearms in a criminal or dangerous fashion.2”
The court found that, since a statute criminalizing the possession of firearms while intoxicated “bears a close and substantial relationship to the state’s legitimate interest in protecting the health and safety of its citizens,” the statute was a proper use of the state’s police power.3
On similar grounds, the court of appeals also rejected an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(10), which prohibits a convicted felon from residing in a dwelling knowing that there is a concealed firearm in the dwelling.4 The court held that art. I, § 19 was not intended to eliminate government regulation of an individual’s possession and use of firearms when there is a significant risk that a person will use a firearm in a criminal or dangerous fashion.5
In 2010, the Supreme Court of Alaska held once again that the right conferred by art. I, § 19 “is limited and does not invalidate laws that restrict convicted felons’ access to firearms.”6
- 930 P.2d 1300 (Alaska Ct. App. 1997).
- Gibson, 930 P.2d at 1301.
- Id. at 1302.
- Morgan v. State, 943 P.2d 1208 (Alaska Ct. App. 1997).
- Morgan, 943 P.2d at 1212. See also Wilson v. State, 207 P.3d 565, 566–568 (Alaska Ct. App. 2009) (rejecting an art. I, § 19 challenge to Alaska Stat. § 11.61.200(a)(1) which prohibits possession of a firearm by a felon, because art. I, § 19 does not limit the state’s authority to regulate firearms used in a criminal or dangerous fashion); Lapitre v. State, 233 P.3d 1125, 1128 (Alaska Ct. App. 2010) (rejecting a challenge to the felon-in-possession statute).
- Farmer v. State, Dep’t of Law, 235 P.3d 1012, 1016 (Alaska 2010).