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ND bill could counter federal restrictions

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BISMARCK -- As the gun control debate heats up nationally, North Dakota legislators look to create their own firearms laws that could let teachers and municipal judges carry concealed weapons and thwart proposed federal restrictions.

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Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, has proposed legislation that would forbid a state government entity, such as a county sheriff, from assisting a federal agency in the investigation, enforcement and prosecution of a federal firearms law that was not in effect as of January 1.

The bill defines a federal firearm law as a "rule, regulation, or an executive order that specifically deprives a citizen of the United States of manufacturing, importing, buying, or selling" a firearm.

It also would make any employee that violates the proposed law guilty of a class A misdemeanor, fired, stripped of any license or certificates used in the profession and would not be able to hold a public office or public employment in any state for a period of five years after the conviction.

"Goal was to tell the feds they can't have (assistance) because the penalties are too severe," he said.

Nine House members and three senators have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Other bills look more closely at concealed weapons permits.

"(The bills) are spurred from a fairly conservative state reacting to a very liberal president," according to State Sen. Kelly Armstrong, R-Dickinson, who backs a bill that would allow local school districts to create a policy that would determine if employees with concealed weapons permits can carry a gun while on school property.

"I trust school districts to make the right decisions," he said.

The bill, House Bill 1215, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Kiefert, R-Valley City, has 11 co-sponsors, including Armstrong.

Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, proposed Senate Bill 2145, which would allow municipal court judges to carry a concealed weapon.

Erbele said the current law does not allow municipal judges to carry a firearm even though they have a concealed weapons permit.

Armstrong said he has a concealed weapons permit and used to carry a firearm when he first started as an attorney. Now he keeps one locked in a safe under his bed and another locked in a safe in his vehicle.

"There were some rough situations then," he said.

House Bill 1260, proposed by Rep. Karen Karls, R-Bismarck, would allow a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a firearm to petition a district court to restore the individual's firearm rights.

The bill would require the petitioner to file the petition with the district court where the felony was committed. If it was committed out of state, the petitioner would have to file it with the district court in the county in which they reside.

There do not appear to be any bill filings that would restrict access to guns, as the Obama administration is proposing to do.

President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled his proposals for Congress to pass legislation for universal background checks before purchasing a weapon, and bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and military-style assault weapons.

"I think that it's a mistake," New Town Chief of Police Arthur Walgren said. "I think that it's not addressing the real issues, which are drugs and mental health. ... I know I don't support it, any gun bans or anything like that."

Streyle agreed, saying he doesn't think the proposals do anything to protect kids or reduce gun violence.

"It's people that kill people, restricting the number of bullets in a gun will not help one bit. It's a flat out assault on the Second Amendment," he said.

Katherine Grandstrand of The Dickinson Press contributed to this story.

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