LEWISTON – Idaho Rep. Walt Minnick says gun owners don’t need to worry about their gun rights being eroded in the current U.S. Congress.
“There is no possibility there is going to be any gun control in this Congress,” Minnick told the Lewiston Tribune.
Minnick said he’s one of 52 conservative “blue dog” Democrats in the House who oppose further gun control.
“Nothing can pass in the House without some blue dog support,” he said. “The support (for Second Amendment rights) goes far beyond the blue dogs. It’s not just fiscally conservative Democrats. I would warrant it’s a solid majority of the caucus.”
Shooting enthusiasts say fears that the Obama administration might push gun control legislation has boosted gun sales and is driving gun owners to stockpile ammunition.
But Minnick said there are more pressing issues facing Congress than gun control.
“I think it would divert the Congress away from real problems,” he said. “We have so many of them and of such severity, I think it would be shortchanging the nation to spend a week or two on a topic that divisive. It’s like fiddling when Rome is burning. We have real problems – energy, health care, immigration. We still have problems of national security, a war-and-a-half we are fighting. We don’t have the luxury to spend time on issues like this. I think it’s just a non-issue.”
Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said not only is support for gun rights strong in both parties, but he sees a good chance of laws expanding gun rights.
He and Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., are working on a bill to allow people to carry loaded concealed weapons in national parks.
In March, a federal judge blocked a federal rule allowing people to carry concealed, loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges. The decision halted a change in regulations issued in the waning days of the Bush administration and ordered further review.
The Bush rule, which took effect in January, allowed visitors to carry a loaded gun into a park or wildlife refuge as long as the person had a permit for a concealed weapon and the state where the park or refuge was located allowed concealed firearms. Previously, guns in parks had been severely restricted.
The Obama administration last month said it would not appeal the court’s decision. Instead, the Interior Department said it would conduct a full environmental review of an earlier policy that allowed concealed, loaded guns in parks and refuges.
Crapo, despite his belief that support for guns rights is strong among lawmakers, said he’s concerned some form of gun control measure could be introduced.
“The potential for a renewed effort in Congress supported by the administration, in my opinion, is a real threat, a real possibility,” Crapo said.
While it’s unlikely any measures to require gun owners to register their firearms could be passed, he said, there is a chance more moderate laws could be considered, such as closing the gun show loophole that allows people to buy firearms without a criminal or mental health background check.
Minnick doesn’t see the gun control issue breaking along party lines.
“If there is an ideological dividing line, it is central city and urban versus suburban and rural,” he said. “That is the dividing line – it isn’t party.”
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