(The Center Square) – A bill that began as legislation that would have allowed North Dakotans to conceal carry at the Capitol building has turned into a study of the issue instead.
House Bill 1341 will create a legislative management study to gather historical data to identify locations where firearms may and may not be carried. If enacted, the study will occur during the 2023-2024 interim.
A conference committee agreed Monday on several amendments, including stripping away language specifically named the National Rifle Association (NRA).
Previously, lawmakers raised issues with naming the NRA.
“A study generally presumes we look at both sides of an issue. It looks like only one side of the issue is included here,” Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, stated during a Senate floor session.
The new language now states “associations/organizations with any interest in firearm legislation” instead of the NRA.
Not all lawmakers were happy to see the shift in the bill’s focus from allowing concealed carry at the Capitol to becoming a study.
“We do not need to study and we do not need to learn what the court’s opinion is or how to interpret what the court says when we decide whether or not to give citizens their second amendment rights back in any given place,” said Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, who is among the lawmakers who introduced the bill.
Koppelman said all of North Dakota’s neighboring states and others already allow concealed carry in their capitols.
“Many of those states don’t even have metal detectors at their doors as we didn’t have before there was a protest in our state,” Koppleman said. “I have to wonder, if we vote this down, do we think there is something fundamentally wrong with North Dakotans? With our citizens’ ability to carry out their second amendment rights?”
Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, who sat on the conference committee, said the study was necessary due to a Supreme Court ruling in 2022.
“We have to look at historical data nationwide to identify where we can carry concealed and where we cannot carry concealed and it has to be identified in the historical data,” Heinert said. “The attorney general’s office needs to do the research on these locations and we need to identify each and every one. By doing the study, we will also create more historical data for our state to identify where we can or cannot carry a concealed weapon or a weapon. This is very important.”
Heinert said the Capitol building would likely not be found as a location where concealed carry is allowable.
“The two reasons are one, legislative assembly and, two, the supreme court is contained in the Capitol building. Those were both identified by the supreme court as areas where you can say no to (carrying a concealed weapon),” Heinert said.
Capt. Luke Hendrickson, administrative services commander for the North Dakota Highway Patrol, which oversees security at the Capitol, said he was against the bill.
“The need for a citizen or team member to carry a weapon while in the Capitol is minimized by these factors,” Hendrickson said in written testimony. “In fact, more individuals carrying weapons, including those who may not be proficient in the use of the weapon, creates a security concern.”