BOISE – A legislator whose concealed weapons permit was revoked for lying about a long-ago rape case can still legally carry hidden guns – because Idaho is the only state that exempts elected officials from the permit law.
The case of state Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, is bringing new attention to the 1990 Idaho law providing the exemptions, and some Idaho lawmakers say it’s time for a change.
“I have a philosophy that those of us in public office should be under the same laws as the general public,” said state Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls.
Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, said, “I think the message it sends is that elected officials get perks. And when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, I think that’s particularly disturbing, because essentially, it’s saying we should have more ability to protect ourselves than the average citizen.”
Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, vice-chairman of the House Judiciary Committee – on which Patterson serves – said he’s not ready to do away with the elected-official exemption. “Certainly public officials can be targets in their own rights, especially in today’s world,” he said. But, he said, “I think it’s something that we need to have a further look-see at.”
Patterson is mulling an appeal of his permit revocation; the Idaho Statesman reported on Sunday that the Ada County Sheriff revoked his permit after discovering that he lied twice, in 2007 and 2012, on his permit application, which asked if he had ever had a withheld judgment for a felony offense. Patterson didn’t disclose his 1974 guilty plea and withheld judgment for assault with intent to commit rape in a Florida case. He was acquitted in another, unrelated forcible rape case three years later.
The Idaho permit application asks, “Have you ever had an entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify you from obtaining a concealed weapons license?” Patterson twice answered no.
Patterson, in a written statement issued to two Boise TV stations late Sunday, accused Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney and Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey of “a bare-knuckled campaign to intimidate me from serving the people of Idaho.”
The first-year lawmaker, who unsuccessfully pushed legislation this year to criminalize cops who enforce new federal gun-restriction laws that might be enacted, says Raney is targeting him because of his legislation and because he scrutinized the Idaho Sheriffs Association’s spending and policies. “This whole thing is to silence me,” Patterson told the Statesman.
Raney dismissed the idea. “The questions that Mr. Patterson raises and the allegations he makes are irrelevant to the fact that he lied on his initial application and his renewal application,” the sheriff said. “That and only that is the reason for our actions.”
Idaho’s elected-official exemption applies to any elected official in the state, from school board members and highway district commissioners to the governor. It also exempts a slew of others, with many of the additional exemptions added in amendments since 1990. Those include peace officers, jail guards, military employees, criminal investigators for the attorney general or county prosecutors, city or county officials, retired peace officers, people legally hunting, fishing or trapping outside a city, and on-duty officers of express companies.
“Absolutely the Legislature should look at this, and not because of any particular legislator,” Malek said. “I don’t think it’s right that us elected officials are held to a lower standard than the constituents who put us in office.”
Getting a concealed weapons permit in Idaho requires a background check and a training course.
Henderson, 90, got his first gun at age 6, but he and his wife still voluntarily took a concealed-carry class – required for Idaho citizens seeking permits, but not for elected officials – the year before last.
“I still believe that the training is highly desirable, and I believe it should be required,” said Henderson.
House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, said, “I don’t like the fact that there’s a double standard. I think everybody ought to have the same ability and right that the Legislature does: Broaden the exemption.” Said Moyle, “What I’m saying is it oughta include everybody.”