Law enforcement critical of bill to avoid federal gun laws

As federal gun control measures are being considered in Washington, lawmakers in Bismarck want to prevent any of those laws from impacting gun rights in North Dakota.

“If and when that happens, this bill would say state and local law enforcement will not enforce those federal gun restrictions which exceed North Dakota gun laws,” Rep. Rick Becker said.

In terms of specific laws to avoid, Becker pointed to HR 127, which would require national licensing and registration of firearms — plus, any potential executive orders from the Biden administration.

“If we go into that territory, I don’t want to put law enforcement officers in the position of going to someone’s house, knocking on the door, and saying we have to arrest you because you didn’t get firearm insurance or license,” Becker said.

But Chief Agent of the state’s Criminal Investigation Bureau Casey Miller says passing a bill as a preemptive measure ignores what it could do in the here and now: tie the hands of local law enforcement and hinder investigations.

“This bill will effectively stop the efforts of drug task forces when investigating these types of crimes that would potentially go federal if a firearm is involved,” Miller said.

West Fargo Police Chief Denis Otterness says federal collaboration allows for better resources to investigate larger-scale crimes, and ultimately, improved public safety.

“Our federal law enforcement partners give us the ability to infiltrate interstate criminal organizations involved in drug trafficking, illegal firearms trafficking, human trafficking, organized retail crime and other criminal activity,” Otterness said.

The committee did not yet vote on the bill, and instead moved it to a subcommittee to provide an update Wednesday.

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