BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota legislators are considering a ban on public firearm buyback programs, which local governments and law enforcement agencies even in some gun-friendly conservative states commonly use to voluntarily remove weapons from the street.
Republican state Rep. Luke Simons, the primary sponsor of the bill, told a House committee Thursday that firearm buybacks do nothing to increase public safety and shouldn't be subsidized by taxpayer money. His proposed ban wouldn't apply to programs sponsored by private entities.
"The state should not be in the business of buying back guns. Ever," Simons, a Dickinson Republican, told the Political Subdivisions Committee, of which he is a member.
Rep. Mary Adams, a Grand Forks Democrat, questioned the need for such a ban.
"I don't know how it hurts anybody's Second Amendment rights if they willingly turn in their guns," Adams said.
Buyback programs have been in place in other states for decades and are designed to give people a safe place to get rid of unwanted weapons. Simons said he did not know if any gun buyback events had occurred in North Dakota but doubted they had.
Kansas and Indiana passed similar legislation in 2014 that bans local governments from using taxpayer money for gun buyback programs to remove weapons from circulation.
The proposal that received a public hearing Thursday is the latest gun-rights measure North Dakota lawmakers have approved in recent years. The crown jewel for them was a 2017 bill that allows people 21 and older to carry firearms without a permit.
Simons said he believed the programs threaten gun rights and send a message to children that the "government is buying evil guns to get them off the street."
"Before the elephant gets in the room, we should make the room elephant-proof," he said.
Justin LaBar, a fourth-grade teacher from the 80-resident town of White Earth in northwestern North Dakota, spoke in favor of the legislation. LaBar called the buyback programs an "affront to the Second Amendment" and an effort by anti-gun groups "to remove guns from the public."
No one testified against the bill Thursday, and the committee took no immediate action.