After suffering the wrath of two of my freshman colleagues for not scheduling a hearing on their legislation yet, I have a confession to make. As a committee chairman I have the obligation of reading proposed legislation, even before the first hearing.
That is not just so that I can say I have read it. I try to determine from the words on the pages what the sponsor is trying to accomplish and if the words actually do what they intend. I do this on proposals that are brought to the House State Affairs Committee for introduction and throughout the time it is before the committee. I do this, as do most chairmen, to try to avoid wasting the time of the Legislature and to try to help the bill sponsors. If I see problems, I discuss these things with the sponsors and others to see if I have missed something. I have extended the same courtesy to Representatives Karey Hanks, R-St. Anthony, and Christy Zito, R-Hammett. They have made several changes to their own bills.
Rep. Hanks has dubbed her gun bill the “non-residency bill.” Her bill would allow non-residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit while they are in Idaho. While it is somewhat unusual for Idaho’s elected officials to be working for people who don’t live in Idaho, the better question is, why would Rep. Hanks be so infatuated with passing a bill that might place resident concealed weapons permit holders in jeopardy of their license being unrecognized in other states? One of the remaining questions is, will the Hanks bill invalidate Idaho concealed weapons permits in states with which we have reciprocal agreements? I continue to be told by those who have extensive backgrounds on these matters, that the Hanks bill is likely to affect reciprocity with some states.
The Zito “castle doctrine” proposal is more problematic. It is clear that Idaho already has a good and court tested castle doctrine law, even though it is not called such. It is a matter of record that Idaho has not had a record of wrongfully prosecuting people for protecting themselves even to the point of using deadly force in Idaho. Rep. Zito’s first draft contained several infirmities. The second draft was not much improved. The third draft removes a clarifying section of code that, if removed, would be harmful. There is a known question in Idaho’s gun law, and it is not established yet if the Zito bill properly addresses the question of whether the immunity in the law for justifiable killing extends to a person who uses deadly force to protect themselves or their property, but does not kill the intruder.
The bottom line is that this is a complex area of law, and if our current law is good and tested but if a change is needed, we have to make sure the change makes the law better.Unfortunately the legislative sponsors of these two bills believe they can badger their way through the legislative process. I have suggested that the sponsors be inclusive and work with others who have helped craft Idaho’s already good gun laws. As of this writing they have refused to do so. I am not entrenched on this matter and have been willing to a fault to listen. However, in my world, that should be a two way street, not colored by personal attacks.
I think most of our citizens would agree that when we are making gun laws, we must do better than ready, shoot, aim.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, represents Idaho District 32B in the state Legislature. He is chairman of the state affairs committee and serves on the local government committee.