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House votes 55-13 for bill to criminalize Idaho officers who enforce fed gun or ammo seizure laws

HB 291, Rep. Mark Patterson’s bill to charge Idaho law enforcement officers with misdemeanors if they act to enforce any new federal laws regarding confiscation of firearms or ammunition, has passed the House on a 55-13 vote. “This bill is about protecting police officers,” Patterson told the House.

Opponents of the bill, HB 219, called for amendments, saying as written, the bill would endanger cooperative law enforcement efforts with federal and state authorities over drugs and gangs. “This bill may be an example of … the law of unintended consequences,” said Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise. He noted that the bill is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2013. “One thing I do know, and that is that you cannot make a criminal statute retroactive,” he told the House.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, spoke out in favor of the bill. “All of our law enforcement people have no intention of helping the feds take lawful guns, and that is the purpose of this entire legislation,” she said. “We’re trying to do a pre-emptive strike, and the citizens of Idaho understand that.” The bill now moves to the Senate side for consideration. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Hannah Furfaro.

House clears gun confiscation measure
By HANNAH FURFARO, Associated Press 

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A measure that would make it a misdemeanor for law enforcement officials in Idaho to help enforce any new federal firearms restrictions or registration requirements has been approved by the House.

The bill approved on a 55-13 party-line vote could bring jail time and fines to sheriff's deputies and police officers — or other government employees — who help federal agents confiscate any newly banned firearms or ammunition.

The measure now heads to the Senate for debate.

Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, says the bill is intended to protect Idahoans from any future federal laws that would target firearms already considered legal in the state. The Obama administration has said that it has no plans to confiscate weapons or require national firearms registration, but Patterson said the proposal would be a way to pre-empt any future changes on the federal level.

"(Idaho) citizens are pleased they can feel safe Idaho's law enforcement will not be kicking in their front doors to take their firearms," Patterson said during floor debate.

But Democratic opponents argued the bill could make it easier for criminal attorneys to find loopholes or nuances in the law to win cases for clients involved in violent gun crimes.

Opponents also argued the bill could pit state law enforcement against federal agents or create a conflict in the oath law enforcement officials take to enforce the U.S. Constitution and laws adopted by the state.

"They take an oath of office to the United States and the state of Idaho," said Boise Democratic Rep. Holli Woodings. "I find that an inherent flaw in this legislation."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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