FARGO – A licensed retailer refusing to sell a firearm to any legally qualified person should be a crime in North Dakota, or so say a handful of the state’s elected few.
A newly-proposed bill in the North Dakota Sixty-sixth Legislative Assembly currently known as House Bill 1160 plans to enforce penalties on any licensed retailer who refuses to sell another authorized person a firearm. The original bill stated anyone who refuses, but sponsors plan to rewrite the bill.
“A person may not refuse to sell a firearm to an individual who is otherwise authorized to purchase a firearm,” the bill states. “A person who violates this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.”
Representative Ben Koppelman, the author of the bill, said because of the rush to submit bills he made a clerical mistake.
“Due to a legislative deadline I only had a couple of days to get that bill in, there was a mistake made in the drafting of that bill that used the word ‘person,’ it should have said ‘retail,’” Koppelman said.
The idea behind the bill stems from an incident with Dick’s Sporting Goods in Bismarck last year where a 19-year-old male was denied the chance to purchase a shotgun, Koppelman said.
On February 28, 2018, the sporting goods store decided to cease selling firearms to all shoppers under the age of 21, according to its website.
“That’s what it was intended to say and that is what it is geared at, retailers of firearms, not discriminating against those who want to purchase a firearm if those people have gone through all the things you have to go through to buy a firearm,” Koppelman said.
“I thought it was important even though somebody could technically file a claim with the Department of Labor and Human Rights and say ‘I was age discriminated against,’ and they would win.”
Who does the proposed bill not apply to?
“It does not apply to you and I selling a firearm I personally own, because I am not a federal licensed retailer. This would not affect that. It will be business as usual for anybody who is not federally licensed.”
Bill co-sponsor, Representative Scott Louser, also said the bill is being redrafted.
“The intent is for licensed retailers only, not for individuals, it is being redrafted,” Louser said. “It is to disallow any retailer from picking and choosing who they want to sell a firearm to – to someone otherwise authorized to purchase.”
“This has nothing to do with individuals. Gun advocates should be in support of what we’re proposing.”
The following Republican representatives and senators sponsored and co-sponsored the bill. They were all contacted for comment, but few replied.
Representative Ben Koppelman from West Fargo and works with Vision Construction. He proposed in 2017 a law to force churches to allow a licensed holder to carry a concealed weapon within its walls, and supports gun legislation that allows university residence hall directors permission to store firearms in their dorm rooms.
Representative Karen Karls of Bismarck, member of the NRA, the Bis-Man Rifle & Pistol Association, and was endorsed by the Family Policy Alliance of North Dakota, formerly known as Focus on the Family. The Family Policy Alliance’s agenda is to advance “biblical citizenship, equip and elect statesmen, promote policy and serve an effective alliance, all committed to a common vision,” according to its website.
Representative Scott Louser of Minot and one of the brains behind a different bill, SCR 4001, which seeks to take power from the people in limiting how constitutional measures are introduced, forcing all measures to be submitted to two subsequent legislative assemblies before going before the people for a vote.
Representative Austen Schauer of West Fargo, formerly a well-known TV news anchor in Fargo-Moorhead was newly elected last November.
Senator David Hogue of Minot is also an attorney and a JAG officer in the North Dakota Army National Guard.
Senator Donald Schaible of Mott, who is also with the Mott Ambulance Service and Mott Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Senator Jessica Unruh of Beulah is also a representative for the Coyote Creek Mining Company.
Currently, North Dakota gun laws do not require a buyer or seller to obtain a permit to purchase, register, license, or enforce a permit to carry a rifle, shotgun, or handgun. The state has a partial ban on the right to carry in restaurants, and has enacted the Castle Doctrine, which authorizes the use of deadly force while at the home to defend one’s self or another from a violent felony, serious injury, or death.
In North Dakota, long guns can be carried without a permit. Handguns require a permit to carry, but people without a permit may carry an unloaded handgun in plain sight from one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunset.
No assault weapons restrictions are in place in North Dakota, and the state also has no bans on National Firearms Act weapons, but all regulated NFA automatic weapons have to be registered with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the county sheriff.
The state also does not have a Stand Your Ground law, meaning a person has a duty to retreat before force for self-defense can be used outside the home.
Article 1, Section 1 of the state’s Century Code provides the right to “keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, property, and the state, and for lawful hunting, recreational, and other lawful purposes,” but federal laws cannot be ignored.
Federal law stipulates that anyone who is not a FFL, or someone who possesses a Federal Firearms License, cannot legally acquire a firearm from anyone who is a resident in another state. Any firearm – handgun, long gun – cannot also be legally purchased for another person, and giving false information is considered a federal felony.
Those who cannot legally purchase a firearm in North Dakota include: those who have been convicted of a felony involving violence, those convicted of class A misdemeanor involving violence, and those who have ever been committed to an institution requiring treatment as a mentally deficient person. A person under 18 is authorized to possess a handgun only under direct adult supervision and for the purposes of safety training, target shooting, or hunting.
The state’s Century Code also states that no political subdivision may enact any ordinance restricting the sale, purchase, ownership, transfer, or registration of firearms or ammunition that is more restrictive than state law.
The proposed bill makes no mention of whether or not a potential buyer is a North Dakota resident, whether or not the person reveals or doesn’t reveal mental issues at the time of purchase, or whether a criminal background check is done. The bill also doesn’t allow for a seller’s judgment call on a potential buyer’s current state of mind. The bill simply, and shortly, says that anyone who refuses to sell a firearm to a qualified individual should be guilty of a crime.
The NRA and Second Amendment advocates heavily support private gun sales, while gun control advocates oppose private transfers and have been pushing for background checks for any firearm purchaser. The NRA believes that prohibiting private sales would be a direct attack on the rights of gun owners, and would not reduce crime, according to the NRA’s website.
Senator Tim Mathern, a Democrat, said the bill appears to address a very narrow concern of public policy, and will be studying the bill when it comes up for hearing.
“We are not aware of any problems with gun sales in North Dakota that HB 1160 is trying to address,” Representative Josh Boschee said. “We look forward to hearing testimony on this bill as it moves through committee.”
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