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Fargo police chief rips ND House bill blocking enforcement of new gun laws

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News Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

FARGO -- When Fargo officials talked this week about proposed legislation and whether a given bill fell in the "support" or "oppose" category, Police Chief Keith Ternes added a third option -- "strongly oppose."

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Ternes relegates House Bill 1183, which he describes as "shortsighted," to the latter category.

The bill would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from assisting federal authorities in enforcing federal firearms laws passed after Jan. 1, 2013.

"I don't want to speak for anybody else, but I think you'd find that law enforcement across the state is probably in opposition to it as well," Ternes said.

He said the bill was introduced before any specific federal proposals had even been unveiled and said if passed, the law would place him and other local law enforcement officers in a dilemma: Assist fellow agents with whom the police department has a long history of cooperation or obey state law and sit on their hands.

"I struggle with the idea we would be prohibited by law from assisting federal law enforcement authorities in an investigation where someone was engaged in unlawful conduct," Ternes said.

The police chief is also concerned about a number of other gun-related bills, including House Bill 1224, which Ternes said essentially repeals many sections of state law dealing with carrying concealed weapons.

Ternes expressed frustration that bills affecting law enforcement are introduced without lawmakers first reaching out to find out the possible impacts.

Many of the gun bills introduced in the North Dakota Legislature have Republican sponsors, including Sen. Joe Miller of Park River.

Miller said there isn't time to do much talking with groups potentially impacted by a bill prior to its introduction, but he said there is ample opportunity afterward for viewpoints to be expressed.

When it comes to the new gun legislation, Miller said it is intended to show "our displeasure with some of these ideas floating around in Washington," which Miller said he and others fear are aimed at depriving people of their right to arm themselves.

"I take an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution as well as the Constitution of North Dakota," Miller said.

"If I feel that action by the president, whatever, is purposefully breaking the U.S. Constitution, I want to take whatever action I possibly can to stop that," he added.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, a co-sponsor of HB 1224, shared Miller's view, stating he didn't want the president or liberals in Congress "imposing their laws and not paying attention to the Constitution."

Ternes said he sees the gun debate being dominated by two extremes: those that want to eliminate guns entirely and those who think they should be able to possess any type of firearm.

Both positions, he said, hobble "our ability to do anything meaningful when it comes to gun legislation."

Ternes said his personal view is that some new regulations are necessary.

"If we were having a debate where the suggestion was we are going to eliminate guns entirely ... I'm opposed to that. But, I do think there should be some restrictions on military equivalent-type of weapons," Ternes said.

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