The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance did ask some interesting and important questions recently of Raul Labrador and Tommy Ahlquist. Lt. Governor Brad Little had a family emergency and could not make the event. Interesting enough is that Raul and Tommy agreed upon all the questions asked them. In other words, there was really no difference on positions between them at this event. They both showed the same level of understanding and misunderstanding in Idaho and Federal law.
First, automatic weapons can be obtained for individuals and it is not illegal. It takes a lot of money and the waiting/vetting period is quite extended. Second, they have a partial grasp of what Idaho law says about your local schools. The gun policy for a primary, middle, junior high, or high school is the responsibility of the local school board. This is Idaho Code 18-3304D.
Okay, you have someone here who is slightly versed on what are the weapons laws in Idaho. I do have some further questions that Mr. Greg Pruett did not ask as well as a comment or two; I will save these for the end of this article. Tony Snesko of Idaho Carries almost made the same mistake Mr. Pruett made on assuming passing a gun law in Idaho would be easy four years ago when Campus Carry was being discussed. Unlike Mr. Pruett, Mr. Snesko had someone advise him about many of the games played at the Idaho Legislature and the State Board of Education. That advisor of Mr. Snesko had a gun law analysis group put together with some interesting results as well. I was part of that group and we examined federal, Idaho, and other state court cases. If it makes Mr. Pruett feel any better, I also had some of my time wasted by a part of state government as well. I don’t think Mr. Pruett has had the indignity of having to testify in front of the Idaho State Board of Education on gun rights on a day when a school shooting occurred back east; I have. I also knew the State Board of Education was not going to do anything regardless if there was a shooting or not.
Let us start with Section 11 of Article I of the Idaho Constitution; this is Idaho’s version of the 2nd Amendment. It was amended in 1978 to allow people to keep arms, prevent a registry of people involving guns, and restricted Idaho to regulating concealed carry. This latter part makes restrictions on open carry essentially the same at the federal level and is one important reason Idaho is considered an “open carry” state. The original version of the state constitution only said “to bear arms” and when 1978 amendment occurred, our state constitution conformed to the federal constitution.
The short and quick way to essentially understand the distinction of “keep” versus “bear” arms comes about in the discussion of “Castle Doctrine” versus “Stand your Ground” laws. The gun law analysis group to which I belong regarded these issues to be more important than the Guns on Campus matter. The Castle Doctrine involves “A man’s home is his Castle.” In these days of political correctness, you can exchange the word “man’s” with the phrase “man or women” and not change the intent; I thought it worthy to include the historical quote that gives rise to the actual words. This involves the right to keep arms. The Hellers and McDonald’s decisions, which are U.S. Supreme Court cases, were about the right to keep arms. Stand your Ground laws are about the right to bear. Stand your ground laws involves your rights to self-defense outside your home or castle. The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and Representative Christy Zito are correct in codifying changes into state law and making this a priority. Leaving this in case law for potential abuse by an activist judge is not appropriate.
The problem for passing gun laws is Governor Otter. Idaho is a strong governor state. This means what the Governor says directs what a lot of the Idaho Legislature does. It is not complete control, but it is not uncommon to hear “You know whose plan this is” amongst legislators over the years. Appointments into the executive branch of state government with a large pay raise is one of the inducements. It is not the only inducement. Not deferring to the Governor’s interest as a House or Senate Committee Chairman can cause you to lose that chairmanship in the Idaho Legislature as well. For example, I can remember what happened to Representative JoAn Wood when she chaired the Transportation & Defense Committee and she opposed massive transportation tax increases proposed by Governor Otter. Maybe Governor Otter needs to be asked why Christy Zito’s House Bill 444 is being held by the State Affairs Chairman so no action can occur. This also raises the stakes on why the ISAA Gubernatorial forum was important. Since Governor Otter backs Lt. Governor Little, it taints Brad Little’s campaign. This was the reason why it was important for Brad Little to be at the ISAA’s forum, which he did not attend.
When I was active in the Idaho Republican Party years ago, the State Republican Central Committee passed many resolutions involving guns that were ignored by legislators and the governor; this practice even predated Governor Otter. In respect to the Guns on Campus matter, a Boise County precinct committeeman even confronted Governor Otter over this matter. The Boise County Republican Central Committee even mentioned what our state constitution said. Governor Otter was against Guns on Campus. This desire to ensure our elected officials following our state constitution also gave rise to Governor Otter wanting to purge the more conservative elements of the Republican Party and he even went after precinct committeemen. In regards to the Republican State Central Committee, the Prosecuting Attorney for Twin Falls, Grant Loebs, was willing to limit the lifetime of a resolution as part of the Republican State Central Committee, but purposefully went out of his way to make sure no accountability of our elected officials would occur when a resolution passed. Rod Beck valiantly tried to lead some attempts when it came to accountability to the Idaho Republican party platform to no avail as well. The reason Governor Otter signed the SB1254 guns on campus legislation was Senator Russ Fulcher was running against him for governor at the time and there was a very strong potential Governor Otter could lose the primary election. Governor Otter did not like having to undercut the Idaho State Board of Education; he appointed every member of the Board by the time SB1254 was being presented.
When Wayne LaPierre of the NRA made the comment maybe we need armed people in our schools under President Obama, some conservatives from northern Idaho looked up state law and found Idaho Code 18-3304D. This lead to a resolution in the Republican State Central Committee designed to inform or remind people what our state can do. For Idaho schools, the local school boards can do this if they deem it appropriate. In fact, our local school boards can do a lot more. This lead to a public backlash in the newspapers advocating “guns are bad” at the time. As a result of this backlash, I was informed that the Twin Falls newspaper did a full front page editorial against guns in schools. I talked to the Twin Falls County Republican Chairman about the matter and suggested a few things to rebut his local newspaper. First, he could mention what state law actually says. Second, he could consult with his local legislators about funding that had already been appropriated from state government for the express purposes of making our schools safer. Some Title IV money was appropriated around that time for the explicit purpose of physically fortifying our schools. Third, redirect the people to their local school board. It doesn’t mean a change for change sake needed to occur. The school board can express their views and practices in regards to this matter and this alone could solve those problems. These school board members are elected officials as well. That chairman dropped the ball in regards to responding to the newspaper; he misconstrued believing I was advocating a change must occur. I was asking him to express what the facts (especially the ones the newspaper misrepresented) were and direct people who can really do something if changes need to occur.
In regards to our local school boards can do a lot more, Representative Ron Nate suggested having legislation for gun safety in schools. Technically under 18-3304D, our local school boards already have that power. I like Ron’s suggestion to actually have it explicitly written into law.
I am very aware of the defects in guns on campus legislation and here I am going to give some of my questions. First, this legislation created an indemnification clause to protect the Idaho State Board of Education and the Idaho public universities from lawsuits; this is Idaho Code 5-343. This prevents “Due Process,” which is another constitutional right, from being carried out. Do Raul and Tommy support rescinding 5-343? Brad Little has made some comments on the radio on not wanting to micromanage our institutions of higher education. Since Brad made that comment, he has already answered my next question.
Section 11 of Article I prohibits a gun registry. Representative Heather Scott ran into a problem trying to protect one of her constituents from the Veterans Administration for essentially violating this policy at the federal level. The person with whom I attended the ISAA forum actually was asked in a Boise State University class in 2016 “Who has an Enhanced Concealed Carry Permit?” This automatically creates a gun registry which violates our state constitution, but doesn’t violate any state laws. So my second question is “Would you support a law to stop this?” The registry issue actually did concern me involving someone else I knew. I explained the differences between state law and university policy in respects to jurisdiction and authority to Representative Mark Patterson. NICS check information was leaked from Ada County Sheriff Raney to Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey and this was the end of Patterson’s career; this was a result on him pushing some pertinent questions involving Guns on Campus legislation. This was just before Mr. Raney took a job with the Obama Department of Justice.
Before the guns on campus legislation was even written, Hank Harris and myself actually visited Lt. Governor Brad Little. We did talk about some of his bird hunting during his University of Idaho days. He was kind and polite. Back when Brad was at the University of Idaho, it was permissible to keep a gun in your room. Here is my next question, “Don’t you want the rights under section 23 of Article I to protect hunting, fishing, and trapping to be preserved by allowing college students to keep items like guns?” If you don’t, should we ask Idaho Fish and Game to shut down ten to fifteen years down the line?
I am glad that both Raul and Tommy support allowing public university students to arm themselves for on-campus housing. As it currently stands, Idaho’s guns on campus law creates an unconstitutional ban on the right to keep arms. Technically, public housing has better standing in the courts than university housing. In 2013, Iowa, Illinois, and Nebraska liability insurance carriers sent out letters to housing authorities that public housing residents have a constitutionally protected right to protect themselves due to U.S. Supreme Court cases (i.e., Hellers and McDonald). These are government owned and government assisted funded buildings. In 2014, Delaware’s Supreme Court ruled the Wilmington Housing Authority cannot set limits on resident’s rights in common areas on public housing. This is another reason why 5-343 needs to be rescinded.
Representative Ron Nate was wondering why I was suggesting legislation for open carry in our university housing to him. He did ask some important and good questions. He wondered why I suggested “open carry” had to be explicitly included instead of just having housing taken off the prohibited places list. He also asked who was my legislator and if I talked to any of them. He discovered I did talk to one of representatives who was supportive of my actions. Representative Zito already has piece of gun legislation locked up in a chairman’s desk drawer; I would not like to make it two.
I told Mr. Tommy Ahlquist I would have to be hard on all three candidates. I personally wish I didn’t have to be. When Mr. Ahlquist went to Mountain Home, I had three questions; the first two questions were mine. In fact, for all three questions he responded, “This is the first I heard of this.” All three questions were not easy and I did not expect to hold him to a one-day turn-around time that he advertises. That wouldn’t be fair to him. I expanded upon the concepts of the three questions in the e-mails. I only had two answered after resubmitting them. The answer for the guns on campus question came back with the amorphous I will follow the constitution. Thank you Mr. Pruett; I now have an answer with details because you asked the question. The second question involved some quirks with university funding. The third question came from Bob Neugebauer involving Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ comment involving free speech at Boise State University. Ahlquist’s staff and I did converse over what happened to Professor Scott Yenor and its implications. The University funding quirk question was never addressed.
Now it’s Raul’s turn. The treasurer for Labrador’s campaign is Milford Terrell. Milford used to be on the State Board of Education and he helped create some of the problems for whomever will be the next governor. Milford is part of the selection committee for President Kustra’s replacement and it looks there is a rush job on getting someone into that position. There is no legislative oversight on that committee. Will Raul ask Milford, “What will be done to ensure constitutional and contractual rights of the adult students at our colleges are being preserved and honored in the Boise State University Presidential selection process?” In fact, I would ask him if people on that committee will ask about Guns on Campus.
The Idaho State Board of Education has purposefully blurred the responsibilities of protecting minors in the K-12 school system and protecting constitutional and contractual rights of adults in higher education for many years. This matter goes beyond just Guns on Campus. If Brad Little gets elected, should I expect those rights to be abrogated as they are now? With Tommy Ahlquist or Raul Labrador being elected, can we expect the Idaho State Board of Education to be asked, “Show us how you have been protecting the rights of college and university students?” The State Board of Education was created by our state constitution. How can they legitimately say the Declaration of Rights in the State Constitution do not matter by their actions? This is the important question: Which man running for Governor is strong enough to force that Board to change its behavior for the better?