With Idaho state lawmakers fired up to protect gun rights, more attention is being focused on an Idaho law that’s been on the books since 1990 permitting any elected official in the state, including legislators, to carry a hidden firearm without a concealed weapons permit. A 2011 survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures showed no other state with such an exemption; most states exempt only peace officers, retired peace officers, military members, and in some cases, judges and prosecutors. Earlier this week, a three-hour evening training class offered in the state Capitol on carrying a concealed weapon drew more than two dozen lawmakers and their spouses. “I learned quite a bit,” said Sen. Roy Lacey, D-Pocatello, “and I’ve had guns all my life.”
Idaho law allows sheriffs to require those applying for concealed weapons permits to go through a training course, ranging from a hunter education class to a firearms safety class, and most sheriffs require those, according to the Idaho Sheriffs Association. It also requires fingerprints and a criminal background check. But none of that applies for elected officials.
“We have the trust of our constituents,” said Lacey. “I think that’s why we’re here. As part of that trust, we should be responsible with our guns.” House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, agreed. “I would say that their election to this body has been a pretty thorough background check,” he said.
Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, said he thinks the exemption is a good idea. “The world is increasingly dangerous, and the ability for anyone to be allowed to protect themselves and their loved ones should be a fundamental right,” he said. “We’re just citizen legislators, but we have a higher visibility, and I know here, in an open capitol, we have higher vulnerability as well.” As he spoke from his seat on the floor of the Idaho House chamber, Barbieri gestured to the open public gallery above. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.