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Associated Press , Published April 02 2013

ND lawmakers outlaw regulation of guns during emergencies

BISMARCK - North Dakota citizens could sue the government if authorities attempt to take away their guns during declared states of emergency under a measure approved Monday by the Legislature.

The state Senate voted 44-3 to endorse the measure, which would allow people to possess a gun during a declared state of emergency. The House approved the bill in February by a vote of 76-17.

Supporters of the legislation note that about 30 states have enacted such laws after New Orleans police confiscated guns while trying to restore order following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Rep. Karen Karls, R-Bismarck, said it was an oversight by the Legislature that it did not enact such a law earlier. She said she sponsored the bill after hearing from her son, a Fargo concealed-carry weapons instructor, and the National Rifle Association, which has lobbied for such measures.

Republican Sen. Spencer Berry, a Fargo physician, told his fellow senators that armed “honest citizens would be able to defend themselves from looters, arsonists and other criminals” during riots or other civil unrest.

“A gun is like a parachute,” Berry said. “If you ever need one and don't have one you'll probably never need one again.”

Beside Berry, no one spoke for or against the measure, the most recent in a package of gun rights bills considered by the Legislature this session. Last week, lawmakers voted down measures that would have allowed concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns at schools or public gatherings, but they approved a bill that would let those with permits to bring firearms to church. That measure and the one approved Monday are now headed to Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who is expected to sign them.

In the case of a declared emergency or disaster, North Dakota's governor — under current state law — can suspend or limit the sale, distribution and transportation of firearms, ammunition, alcoholic beverages, explosives and combustibles.

Legislation approved Monday would allow the sale of firearms and ammunition during a declared emergency. The governor still could regulate booze, explosives and combustibles.