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Bill to add firearms exemptions to Idaho emergency laws moves forward

Silhouette of a hunter aiming his shotgun
Yves Adams/Getty Images
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Digital Vision
Idaho Senate Bill 1262 adds protections for firearms, ammunition and related components during a declared disaster emergency and establishes firearm-related commerce and business as essential services. (Yves Adams/Getty Images)

One Boise legislator says change would shake faith in government

The Senate State Affairs Committee of the Idaho Legislature advanced a bill on Monday exempting guns from the state’s laws around disaster declarations, sending it to the floor for a full vote.

Senate Bill 1262 adds protections for firearms, ammunition and related components during a declared disaster emergency and establishes firearm-related commerce and business as essential services. The bill text also notes that procedures for concealed weapon licenses in Idaho law cannot be bypassed and firearms used in otherwise lawful conduct cannot be seized under a disaster emergency declaration.

The section of Idaho Code that addresses disaster emergencies allows government officials to commandeer or use real or personal property if needed for an emergency, such as construction equipment.

Sen. Todd Lakey said he worked closely with the National Rifle Association and Idaho Gov. Brad Little to draft the legislation, and both were supportive of the idea.

Aoibheann Cline, a lobbyist for the NRA, spoke in favor of the legislation. She noted businesses related to firearms were deemed essential in Little’s emergency declarations related to COVID-19 shutdowns in 2020.

Cline said having the exemption written into law would prevent the need for litigation if a future governor took any action related to firearms restrictions during an emergency. Cline cited a recent lawsuit against Los Angeles County, where gun and ammunition stores were closed during shutdowns. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled the action was unconstitutional. Lakey’s bill would ensure that type of lawsuit would not be necessary, she said.

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he thought the legislation would do more harm than good, and the better course of action would be to separate natural disaster emergencies from emergencies that require a military response.

Burgoyne also said the law would erode faith in government and was unnecessary when Second Amendment rights exist at the federal level.

“When we feel the need to put into the code time after time new and inventive ways of saying the same old thing over again, we’re suggesting to the people of Idaho that their rights are not protected when in fact they are, and I think that’s extremely unfortunate,” Burgoyne said. “ … It makes people feel insecure in their rights, when what we should be doing is making them feel secure in their rights.”

Burgoyne and the other Democrat on the State Affairs committee, Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, voted against sending the bill to the floor.

The Senate will vote on the bill in the coming days of the legislative session. If it is approved, it will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.