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Idaho lawmakers debate gun rights and gun safety - not gun control

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, says she has an answer to school shootings: More retired law enforcement officers carrying concealed guns when they pick up their grandkids from school. (Otto Kitsinger / AP)

Rep. Heather Scott says she has an answer to school shootings: More retired law enforcement officers carrying concealed guns when they pick up their grandchildren from school.

Scott proposed one of four bills dealing with guns that were debated in the Idaho Legislature on Monday; all dealt with gun rights or gun safety, not gun control. Two of the others dealt with “stand your ground” laws; and one encourages Idaho schools to offer optional gun-safety courses for students.

“Mass shootings in society seem to be on the rise, especially in the schools, as we saw this week with the heart-wrenching incident that we saw in Florida,” Scott, R-Blanchard, told the House State Affairs Committee on Monday. “Because of events like this there might be a push for more security officers at our schools and colleges.”

Scott’s bill would add three more places where retired law enforcement officers could carry concealed guns in Idaho where that’s not permitted now: In K-12 schools, and in student dormitories or large stadiums on public college or university campuses.

That way, she said, “You can pick up your grandchild at school legally, and walk through the doors to pick up your child with your concealed weapon.”

The committee endorsed Scott’s bill on a unanimous vote; it now moves to the full House. Scott said the idea was brought to her by a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, and she has support for it from the Idaho Sheriffs Association and the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association.

“Idaho law enforcement agencies are already overburdened with awesome responsibilities,” Scott said. “We never know when one of the officers will need to be the first line of defense to stop a tragic incident or when evil rears its ugly head.”

The other gun bills debated at the Idaho Legislature on Monday included:

SB 1333, “Stand Your Ground”

The Senate State Affairs Committee backed Sen. Todd Lakey’s “castle doctrine” and “stand your ground” bill on a party-line vote, after more than two hours of testimony, with just two minority Democrats dissenting. Lakey, an attorney, said Idaho has had those policies in case law for 100 years, and the bill simply writes them into state law.

Reading from current Idaho jury instructions, Lakey, R-Nampa, said, “One need not retreat, one may stand one’s ground and defend one’s self.” He said, “That’s the state of the law. We do have stand your ground, there’s no duty to retreat. … The bill does not change any of the existing standards.”

Lakey said his bill was developed in consultation with prosecutors, law enforcement, and Idaho legislators with experience and expertise in legislation regarding the 2nd Amendment.

Most of the more than 30 people who testified on the bill opposed it, saying it would encourage people to “shoot first and ask questions later.” An NRA representative, Keely Hopkins, spoke in favor of the bill. Others said they didn’t believe the bill went far enough to protect self-defense rights.

HB 444, “Stand Your Ground”

After the House State Affairs Committee had concluded its business on Monday, Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, made a motion to hold a hearing on her farther-reaching stand-your-ground bill. Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, said his intention was to wait until the Senate bill arrives in the House and hear both measures together.

“There is currently in the State Affairs Committee in the Senate a bill that is a lot simpler than this, that achieves it in a much better way,” Loertscher said. “Depending on how that turns out … the desire of the chair is that we will be having a hearing probably simultaneously with the Senate bill.”

Zito said, “There are vast and varied opinions on whether the bill being heard in the Senate is a better bill or not. I think in all fairness to the citizens of the state of Idaho that both bills should have their day.”

Her motion failed..

HB 443, Gun safety classes in schools

Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, pitched his bill to encourage public schools in Idaho to offer optional classes on gun safety to the House Education Committee on Monday. The panel approved the bill on a party-line vote, with its three minority Democrats dissenting; the bill now moves to the full House.

Nate said the move would help familiarize kids with guns so they’d be less likely to be involved in accidental shootings. “We teach all sorts of safety in our schools,” he told the committee.

Two people spoke in favor of the bill and two against. The measure now moves to the full House.