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.
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.
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:
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.
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."
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.
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.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.