What Gun Fight?

Senate Bill 1389, currently pending for discussion before the Idaho Senate State Affairs Committee, seeks to amend Section 18-3302 of the Idaho Code. Commonly referred to as the “Constitutional Carry Bill” it begins with a reminder that “We The People” of Idaho, are governed only to the extent we consent to be governed, which reads as follows:

“18-3302. CONCEALED WEAPONS. (1) The legislature hereby finds that the people of Idaho have reserved for themselves the right to keep and bear arms while granting the legislature the authority to regulate the carrying of weapons concealed. The provisions of this chapter regulating the carrying of weapons must be strictly construed so as to give maximum scope to the rights retained by the people.”

Simple enough. Our legislature has, apparently, gotten the message that we wish to remove some impediments to our full and natural right to “keep and bear arms” as memorialized in the 2nd amendment to the Constitution for the United States of America and Article 1, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution. What then, are we to make of this talk about a “Gun Fight”?

I refer to a headline in a North Idaho Newspaper – “Gun fight brewing over Constitutional carry bill.” The article to which the headline was attached, details comments made by two local “Law Enforcement” officials – one elected, one appointed. To be sure, the views of the appointed official, a Police Chief, echo the sentiments of an overwhelmingly liberal constituency. On the other hand, the elected official, a Sheriff to be specific, seems to be out of sync with his very conservative leaning electorate.

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What makes the views noteworthy is the fact that SB 1389 has been uncharacteristically non-controversial. Proposed and supported by a very vocal citizenry, the amendment is even supported by great numbers of law enforcement professionals, including the Idaho Sheriff’s Association. What could possibly be objectionable about a law that changes nothing for criminal elements with regard to possessing weapons, but allows law abiding citizens to exercise a right, unfettered by pre-screening requirements? Nothing is objectionable, of course!

When we examine the specifics of the supposed “gun fight”, we see that the fight quickly fizzles and the newspapers hyperbole is laid bare! The Sheriff purportedly said the bill is “poorly written and confusing” and “I have always stated that I am opposed to not being able to screen people at the onset.” Even if true, these statements hardly evidence a clenched fist thrown against this important legislation.

The Chief of Police, a political appointee, voiced a different concern. The newspaper claims he said “Right now if I see you walking down the street and there is a bulge consistent with an outline of a firearm that appears to be concealed, I can legally stop you for the minimal amount of time it takes for me to validate you are a permit holder.” Again, hardly a counter punch. So where’s the fight? It is of course, in the mind of whom ever thought up the eye-catching headline. Sensationalism sells, no doubt!

With due respect to the Sheriff and Chief, this bill is certainly not “confusing” and as legislative texts go, it is not “poorly written”. Furthermore, instead of presuming the person with the “bulging” outline of a gun is a criminal, perhaps we should presume they are a law abiding citizen exercising their right to be protected at all times. We must never succumb to the notion that exercising a right could become “probable cause” for a police detention, no matter how “reasonable” the duration of that intrusion may be.

To be fair, I should note that the Chief claims that he is “staunchly” pro second amendment. I believe him. However, there is no fight over this bill and it is a logical and important step in implementing the true nature of our gun rights.

I support Senate Bill 1389, with one caveat, for the following reasons:

  • It makes no real or substantive change in the law, other than allowing otherwise law abiding citizens to exercise their gun rights without permission and without worrying about wandering in and out of city limits.
  • It does not make it any easier for a criminal to possess a firearm. Criminals are criminals and could not care less what the language of the bill says.
  • The essence of SB 1389, is for the people of Idaho to remove consent to be governed in a way that they believe to be illogical and unnecessary. We trust ourselves to follow the law!

By way of caveat, my only reservation with regard to the amendment is that it needlessly discriminates against and burdens law abiding citizens of our sister states from the free exercise of their own inherent right to self-protection! Do city limits really matter when exercising a right? I think not!

Senate Bill 1389 is a step forward and deserves our support!

John Green is a lawyer and a Republican candidate for sheriff in Kootenai County.

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