Bills From the Wild Side

On Packin’ Heat and Volunteer Guinea Pigs

Coarse Grind – Humor and Opinion

Publisher’s note: This is the first in a recurring series examining some of the lesser-known, and perhaps odder personal bills in the Legislature. Part of being a legislator is introducing personal legislation, and some of that legislation can be serious and important. Some of it can be benign (if silly), such as the establishment of Marmot Day, and some of it can be downright strange. Since the statutory move to a 90-day session, and particularly in a year when legislators might be expected to be distracted by a $3.5 billion revenue shortfall, readers might be interested to see some of the other legislation in the Capitol.

GPA: Gun Packing Academicians

One of the non-revenue bills actually getting some action this session is Sen. Pistol Pete Kelly’s SB 174, or the Gunfight at the Cornerstone Plaza Act. The bill is a response to the University Board of Regents’ decision to ban concealed carry on its campuses. The bill suggests that the concealed carry prohibition denies Second Amendment rights to law-abiding young adults who are just peacefully seeking knowledge, cheep booze and adventurous dating. There’s a philosophy that says a heavily-armed society will promote peace, safety and finally give the bad guys what’s coming to them.

The bill recently moved out of the Senate Education Committee, chaired by Sen. Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla) who was sitting in for Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) who was traveling. Huggins opened the hearing with the housekeeping announcement that he had a knife in his pocket. Some gallery sitters were visibly disappointed, probably having thought all this time Huggins was just always happy to see them. Huggins later pointed out that, as a former soldier and a guy who shoots a lot, it makes him angry that he can’t pack a peacemaker onto commercial airliners. It’s a fair point. Why can’t the TSA just frisk the bad guys getting on planes? Why should we well-intentioned freedom lovers suffer for the actions of a few hundred thousand, or so, bad actors? Surely if all good airline passengers were equipped with leg irons we could all swill our expensive cocktails in a halo of comfort, knowing that if the guy in 14-D mouths off again he’ll be treated to a well-earned sudden cabin decompression.

But this bill is about our public campuses of higher learning, not the namby pamby whims of the NSA. Supporters of the bill take a couple tacks. First, the board of regents has no business depriving students, or anyone else, of their Second Amendment right to bear arms, and second that everybody would be safer if students, or whomever, could shoot bad guys in their stupid faces. The first point is interesting coming from people legislating behind the powerful safety of a plaque on the Capitol building prohibiting weapons and firearms – whoops, Sen. Huggins! Of course, the sign also prohibits loitering and soliciting, so it’s a fair guess most legislators and lobbyists simply haven’t seen it yet.

So, what would a fully-armed university campus look like anyway? Well, according to the campus police chief that testified, since most of the gunslingers would be untrained, it would look pretty scary to campus cops. But that's their problem, right? Besides they're missing the upside that once the student body is fully armed, the students could do a lot of the cops' shooting for them, leaving them more time to buckle down on parking scofflaws and on Greeks streaking through the Wood Center. One has to wonder, though, if the shiznit starts going down on campus, and everybody drops their books and pulls out their heaters, how will the good guys know who the bad guys are? I mean, once everybody is swinging a pearl-handled persuader around the best policy is probably just to shoot first and let the dean sort 'em out later. That's why I'd offer the following amendment to SB 174. While the board of regents should keep their big, fat noses out of students' holsters and waistbands, they could make themselves useful with dress code enhancements. My amendment would require any bad guys entering university property to wear a Hot Dog on a Stick uniform. The uniforms are distinctive and make good targets. I an all-out firefight students and professors would easily be able to identify infiltrators and fry their cheese.

The Rights of Impatients

This one deals with sensitive and personal issues, so I’ll try to keep my tongue out of my cheek. Sen. Bill Wielechowski is carrying SB 113, a bill that falls under the rubric of other “Right to Try” legislation that has passed in 24 other states and that is being heard in several others. The stated purpose of these laws is to allow terminally-ill patients to circumvent the Food and Drug Administration and request access to experimental drugs. Normally, drugs must be approved before patients (through their physicians) can use them. Under current law a physician can ask the FDA for a waiver, and the vast majority of them are granted.

These laws present several problems, and in the states where they have passed there is no evidence to suggest any physician has made use of them. While it seems reasonable to allow a dying patient to try an experimental drug, the ramifications could be broad. By bypassing the FDA the onus would be placed on the drug developers, and they are understandably reluctant to put their drugs into use outside of clinical trials. One reason is the obvious liability risk, but another challenge is that experimental drugs are not produced in large amounts – because they’re not intended for use outside of the lab. The laws also require the patient/doctor to first convince the drug company to provide the drug at cost, a remarkably difficult thing to do. In addition, if the patient experiences serious side effects from a drug that is not yet ready for prime time, it could make it much more difficult for the company to ever receive FDA approval.

These laws present several problems, and in the states where they have passed there is no evidence to suggest any physician has made use of them. While it seems reasonable to allow a dying patient to try an experimental drug, the ramifications could be broad. By bypassing the FDA the onus would be placed on the drug developers, and they are understandably reluctant to put their drugs into use outside of clinical trials. One reason is the obvious liability risk, but another challenge is that experimental drugs are not produced in large amounts – because they’re not intended for use outside of the lab.

The laws also require the patient/doctor to first convince the drug company to provide the drug at cost, a remarkably difficult thing to do. In addition, if the patient experiences serious side effects from a drug that is not yet ready for prime time, it could make it much more difficult for the company to ever receive FDA approval. These laws also cannot force health insurers to cover the experimental drugs, and most of the laws do not make provisions for coverage.

In short, the FDA already grants waivers for the vast majority of terminal patients, and there is no evidence that Right to Try laws have actually benefitted anyone. The drugs, because of their very nature as experimental, could cause serious complications to a patient’s condition, or create serious new problems for patients.