Council delegate pushes for gun registration

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred, as seen during a council session in 2016.

FARMINGTON — A proposal that would require people living on the Navajo Nation to register their firearms is working its way to the tribal council.

The bill proposes individuals who reside on tribal lands and own firearms – including automatic guns, rifles, shotguns and antique firearms – register those weapons with the Navajo Nation Police Department, which would maintain a central registry.

According to the bill, the registry would record a firearm's serial number, a date of registration and the owner's name and address.

If the Navajo Nation Council approves the measure and the tribal president signs it into law, gun owners would have up to 180 days to register.

Those who possess a firearm after the law is established would have to register the weapon in 180 days from the date of purchase.

The right to keep and bear arms for peaceful purposes exists in the Navajo Nation Bill of Rights but under a section of tribal law that addresses law and order, it is a crime to carry a loaded firearm or other types of deadly weapons on your person.

The law has exceptions for peace officers, possession in residences or in the trunks or glove boxes of motor vehicles, for hunting, or for use as part of any traditional Navajo religious practices, ceremonies or services.

Delegate Davis Filfred, who said he and his father have served in law enforcement, identified his reasons for sponsoring the bill as creating accountability for gun owners and helping law enforcement identify firearms used in criminal activities.

"It's to have better gun control. …I want accountability," said Filfred, who represents Aneth Chapter in Utah and Mexican Water, Red Mesa, Teec Nos Pos and Tólikan chapters in Arizona.

He added that he is unaware of any data on how many guns people own on the Navajo Nation and to his knowledge, this is the first time the Navajo Nation lawmakers would address gun registration.

Although the bill does not address penalties for failing to comply with registering, Filfred said the proposal is the first step in creating the process and the tribal council's Law and Order Committee, which will consider the bill before passing it along to the full council, would oversee further details.

Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco.

Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco said he would support a gun registry since it can help law enforcement officials address public safety issues, but the bill does not authorize additional funding for the department to hire personnel to oversee the registry.

The other challenge is upgrading computer systems to assist the registry, he added.

"It's a tool we can use in the police department," Francisco said of the proposal.

A 2015 article published by the Albany Law Review states that other tribes have enacted firearm regulations including permit requirements, limits for carrying concealed weapons, restrictions on having guns in certain places and regulations that center on gun types and barrel length.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.