facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

WASHINGTON—Rep. Mary Pelota, who is Yupik, and U.S. Sen. Markwayne Mullin, a Cherokee Nation citizen, introduced legislation on Wednesday to protect tribal citizens’ rights to buy, keep and bear arms.

Peltola (D-AK) partnered with South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson to introduce the bipartisan Tribal Firearms Access Act in the House of Representatives. Mullin (R-OK) and South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds introduced the companion legislation in the Senate.   

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

The proposed legislation, which Johnson introduced with Mullin’s support in the previous Congress, would make it easier for Native Americans living on tribal lands to buy firearms. If enacted into law, the bill would list tribal governments as eligible entities to issue identification documents for the purposes of transferring ownership of a firearm. 

“Tribal citizens, and all law-abiding Americans, have a fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Mullin said in a statement. “For too long, a lapse in existing law has prohibited Tribal members from using their Tribal government-issued ID to lawfully purchase firearms. Our commonsense legislation corrects this unconstitutional infringement." 

The bill is being backed by a number of Republican House members, including Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), co-chair of the Native American Caucus. The bill is endorsed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the National Native American Law Enforcement Association and other gun-rights advocacy organizations.

"In Alaska, firearms are an essential tool for subsistence and self-defense alike,” Peltola said in a statement. "Tribal identification cards are already valid for a variety of uses, including boarding planes and accessing federal buildings and banks across the nation. This bill would extend this parity to include the Second Amendment Rights of Tribal members. It is past time that Tribal sovereignty is recognized in this regard, and I look forward to working with Rep. Johnson on this essential legislation.”

For many tribal citizens, tribal identification cards (IDs) are their only form of identification. South Dakota passed a law in 2011 allowing Tribal IDs to be “acceptable forms" of government-issued identification for purchasing alcohol and tobacco products. Current federal law allows for citizens of a foreign country to purchase a firearm with their foreign passport but does not permit an American citizen who is a tribal citizen to use their tribal ID to purchase a firearm. 

“The right to bear arms is constitutionally vested, and important to the day-to-day lives of Native Americans,” President Tony Reider of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe said in a statement. The new legislation, he said, “removes certain barriers for tribal members to purchase firearms by allowing them to utilize tribally issued identification cards as a valid form of identification.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over half of American Indian people who live on Indian Reservations lack access to high-speed internet service and 18% have no internet access at all, making obtaining a state-issued identification card difficult for many Native people. 

Tribal IDs usually contain the same information found on a driver’s license and are acceptable forms of identification by numerous government agencies — including the Dept. of Homeland Security while flying domestically.

More Stories Like This

Native News Weekly (April 21 2024): D.C. Briefs
Q+A: Journalist Connie Walker Reflects on Season 3 of 'Stolen' Podcast Investigating Navajo Nation MMIP Cases
Native Bidaské with Sarah Eagle Heart (Oglála Lakota) on the Indigenous Fashion Collective
Twelve Cherokee Nation Cyclists, 950 Miles: The 40th Annual Remember the Removal Bike Ride
Leona Carlyle-Kakar (Ak-Chin), Instrumental in Securing the 1st Water Rights Settlement in Indian Country, Walks On

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Native News Online Staff
Author: Native News Online StaffEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Native News Online is one of the most-read publications covering Indian Country and the news that matters to American Indians, Alaska Natives and other Indigenous people. Reach out to us at [email protected].