North Dakota lawmakers push to remove "gun-free" zones

Mark Humphrey

North Dakota is already pretty darn good about respecting the Second Amendment rights of residents. Permitless carry is the law of the land, so all legal gun owners can also exercise their right to bear arms without having to be pre-approved by the state, though there are still a number of locations where concealed carry is prohibited under state law.


HB 1483 would remove some of those “gun-free zones” from state statute, but I have to say it sounds like there might be a little confusion on the part of lawmakers when it comes to what the Supreme Court has actually said about “sensitive places”.

The Legislature approved a bill in 2017 to allow most law-abiding adult residents to carry a concealed gun in public without a permit. However, the law includes exceptions — schools, colleges, bars, places of worship and publicly owned buildings — where gun possession is still largely prohibited.

Proponents of eliminating those exceptions say more firearms would make students and employees safer while allowing people to protect themselves.

Education administrators and police officers worry that allowing nearly any adult to carry hidden weapons into schools and public buildings would increase the risk of gun-related violence.

[Rep. Ben] Koppelman told the committee he believes federal courts have expanded and will continue to widen legal parameters for where guns can be carried. He said his bills preempt judicial action and support the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.


I’m not sure if Koppelman is getting it backwards or the reporter covering his comments misconstrued his his position, but either way the Supreme Court didn’t talk about where guns could be carried in Bruen. It discussed those limited places where the lawful carrying of firearms could be banned. The Court specifically mentioned a few areas like courthouses, legislative assemblies, and polling places as legitimate “gun-free zones”, but the justices didn’t say that firearms must be banned in those locations, only that designating them as “sensitive places” would likely survive a court challenge.

North Dakota, then, is free to remove any and all “sensitive places” designations that lawmakers want, and based on the number of existing locations where concealed carry is banned I think Koppelman is right to get ahead of any potential lawsuits that challenge those existing prohibitions; particularly in bars, places of worship, and all publicly owned buildings. But it’s wrong to portray Bruen as the Court setting limits on where law-abiding citizens can exercise their Second Amendment rights. The case was fundamentally about New York’s “may issue” laws that deprived the average citizen of obtaining a carry license, and the Court’s brief detour into “sensitive places” was more of an instruction to states that, historically speaking, “sensitive places” were few and far between. It certainly wasn’t an edict proclaiming that states must ban concealed carry in the locations outlined above.


Frankly, every state in the Union should be examining their current list of “gun-free zones” and axing as many of them as possible; not just to stave off the possibility of a federal lawsuit, but to ensure that their residents have access to their right to armed self-defense whenever and wherever possible.

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