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Port: Legislature should absolutely overturn Fargo's (already illegal) restrictions on gun sales

This isn't really a local control issue. It does not serve the interests of North Dakota well to have our state be a patchwork of conflicting policies on things such as guns. It makes more sense for us to develop, as a state, standardized and easy-to-understand policies that are, in turn, respected by political subdivisions. Support for "local control" in this instance means adding to the already byzantine maze of regulations gun owners must abide by.

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Handguns are seen Friday, Jan. 15, at Pawn Pros, 1411 University Dr. S., Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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MINOT, N.D. — Some of Fargo's city leaders need to be reminded that their community is not some autonomous city-state.

Fargo is, in fact, a political subdivision of the State of North Dakota.

I'm writing in the context of the debate over a Fargo ordinance outlawing transactions for firearms in private homes. We aren't talking about people setting up gun counters in their living rooms. Due to heavy, often convoluted regulations purchasing firearms is often not an easy task. For instance, if you buy a gun online, you can't have it shipped directly to you. It must first be received by someone with the proper licensing from the federal government.

The people who hold those licenses provide that service for a fee. They often conduct those transactions from their homes.

There aren't many people in Fargo who do this. There were just seven in May of last year when then- Fargo Police Chief David Todd said there hadn't been any complaints about them. The ordinance has actually been in place since 2007, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which licenses these firearm dealers, continued to issue licenses until recently when they became aware of the ordinance.

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Those wishing to shut down these at-home transactions in Fargo aren't responding to any real-world problem. They're acting based on knee-jerk, anti-gun sentiment.

Now the Legislature may step in. House Bill 1248 , introduced by state Rep. Ben Koppelman (R-West Fargo), would reportedly overturn Fargo's existing ordinance on gun sales.

As I pointed out in a previous column, it seems obvious that existing state law makes Fargo's policies illegal. Here's the code with Koppelman's proposed amendments. Note that while he's adding "dangerous weapons" to section 62.1-01-03 of the North Dakota Century code titled, "Limitation on authority of political subdivision regarding firearms," firearms are already there:

EMBED: Excerpt of Ben Koppelman bill on Fargo firearm sales

Fargo city attorney Erik Johnson has told the city's commissioners that their ordinance does not violate state law because it's not restricting these transactions only regulating where they can occur.

Which is an argument as specious as it is wrong.

The State of North Dakota does not prohibit these transactions in residential homes.

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Fargo does.

Fargo's policy is, thus, more restrictive and illegal under this statute.

I'm not sure how Koppelman's bill changes the status quo — he adds zoning ordinances, specifically, to the law, which would seem unnecessary to most literate people since the statute already referenced "any ordinance" — but if an act of the Legislature is what it takes to get misguided Fargo city leaders to back down, so be it.

Already certain Fargo commissioners are crying the blues about "local control."

Commissioner John Strand said he found it "very, very difficult to swallow preemptions pushed down our throat from the state legislature."

Commissioner Arlette Preston said, "we've had way too much local control taken away already."

Local elected leaders love to invoke local control when it's convenient for them, just as much as they love to blame other levels of government when it comes time to take responsibility for policy.

But that rank and consistent hypocrisy aside, this isn't really a local control issue. It does not serve North Dakota's interests well to have our state be a patchwork of conflicting policies on things such as guns. It makes more sense for us to develop, as a state, standardized and easy-to-understand policies that are, in turn, respected by political subdivisions.

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Support for "local control" in this instance means adding to the already byzantine maze of regulations gun owners must abide by.

All to solve a supposed problem that nobody has been complaining about.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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