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Eye On Boise

Fri., March 17, 2017, 9:57 a.m.

Proposed ‘stand your ground’ bill prompts debate, draws personal stories from lawmakers…

Rep. Christy  Zito, R-Hammett, shares a personal story about brandishing a gun to defend her 11-year-old daughter with the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday, March 17, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)
Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, shares a personal story about brandishing a gun to defend her 11-year-old daughter with the Senate State Affairs Committee on Friday, March 17, 2017. (Betsy Z. Russell)

A proposal from Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson, to revise Idaho’s laws on when a person can lawfully shoot someone else in self-defense or in defense of another, aimed at “stand your ground” and “castle” doctrines like those enacted in other states, ran into flak at the Senate State Affairs Committee this morning. Zach Brooks, chairman of the board of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, spoke against the bill, SB 1161. “This bill is not an improvement over current state law; it is a recitation of current law,” Brooks said. “As has been mentioned already, we do not have a ‘duty to retreat’ statute.”

Brooks said, “With a week left in the session, I request that we actually take the next nine months to actually get this right and make a good bill for the next session.”

Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, recounted with emotion an experience she had while driving in her pickup truck with her 11-year-old daughter. “There was a truck that would pull up beside us and then fall back,” she said, continuing for many miles. Then, when she entered a canyon where there was construction, “They ran us off the road into the barricade so that I couldn’t get away. These two men that were in this truck got out and advanced to my pickup.”

She said, “I turn and look at my 11-year-old daughter, and as a mom and as a woman you can only imagine what went through my mind as to what would happen to my child,” she said, including things “worse than death.”

“I had a .38 Special sitting on the console of my truck,” Zito said. “It didn’t take them two and a half seconds to get from their truck to the door of my truck. I raised my gun and I looked at them with everything I could muster to let them know that I would pull the trigger if they didn’t stop advancing. And I looked out my window and I showed them the gun, and they left.”

Zito said it was that experience that got her interested in laws regarding the castle doctrine and no duty to retreat, though she opposed Brackett’s bill, saying it needed more work. “Now I don’t know what would have happened that day,” Zito said. “I don’t have to wonder.” She said, “Whatever it takes to make this so that it’s right and good and that people like me have the right to defend themselves and their families.”

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, asked Zito if she followed up with law enforcement, to ensure that the same men didn’t threaten another family. “We were on the road,” Zito said. “I was so upset that I didn’t get a license plate or anything else. … I sat there in my truck I don’t know how long, and I was shaking so bad I couldn’t even put it into gear to drive down the road. I thought about calling law enforcement,” but she said she didn’t, because she couldn’t even say what the men looked like.

Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “Thank you for sharing your experience with us. Part of what I’m trying to figure out is, current law evidently allowed you to do everything that you did. What is it that you’re looking for in additional statutes? What is it you were not able to do that you wanted to do, that you want statutes to allow you to do?

Zito said she couldn’t say. “I think it would be better placed to have someone that is an attorney that specialized in Second Amendment issues to answer those questions,” she said. When Hill asked again, Zito said she’d like to see a “presumption of innocence” for a homeowner defending their home, and that court costs should be reversed if they’re acquitted.

Zito wasn’t the only one who shared a personal story at the hearing this morning on Brackett’s bill, SB 1161, which didn’t advance; it was unanimously held in committee.

Brackett said he and his wife rent an apartment in the Boise area during the legislative session, and typically go home on weekends; one Sunday afternoon when they returned in the early evening, “Our apartment had been broken into, the door had been forced open, the frame was shattered.” Nothing had been stolen, he said. “We reported it. But it really made us think: What if we had been home?” Brackett said both he and his wife have enhanced concealed-carry permits. But the experience prompted him to work with his local county prosecutor on proposed changes to state law, aimed at declaring that a person has no duty to retreat rather than use force in self-defense and can “stand one’s ground,” and that anyone who attempts to enter someone else’s home “unlawfully and by force” is “presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit a felony.”

Brackett said he thought everyone could agree on that point. But Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, shared his own story, about how a drunken man tried to enter his home, prompting him to hold him at gunpoint until police arrived. “And after I’d taken care of the situation and got it under control, we found out that the gentleman was drunk and he thought he was coming into his own home. … Somehow we need to make sure that the language here protects and specifies that there is a point when you pull that trigger, that you need to know that someone is trying to do harm, and not inadvertently make a mistake.”

Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said, We have some good, strong case law in Idaho that provides for the castle doctrine and to a good extent the ‘no duty to retreat,’ so I think in a certain way less is more – we don’t want to step on the good protections that we have in case law.”

Brackett told the committee, “Regardless of the outcome, this is a good discussion – it raises the awareness of the issue. But it also increases the burden on all of us that we do the right thing, we don’t create unintended consequences. … We do not want to empower people just to go out and start shooting other people. That would certainly be an unintended consequence.”

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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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