Idaho Speaker of the House Scott Bedke told IdahoReporter.com there’s no attempt on his part to kill a proposal to expand gun rights in Idaho.
On the contrary, Bedke said, he’s trying to keep pro-Second Amendment legislation from being sidelined by political brinksmanship.
The Oakley Republican and other legislators have been accused, largely in social media and mainstream press, of blocking consideration of House Bill 89. The bill would allow Idaho gun owners to tote firearms without needing a license. Supporters call it “constitutional carry,” and it’s awaiting action in the House State Affairs Committee.
“There’s no nefarious plot here,” Bedke said Friday. “I think there’s been some misunderstanding about my actions,” Bedke said.
Greg Pruett, president of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, introduced the measure after shopping the idea around to several lawmakers, with no luck finding a legislative backer.
The bill would still ban those already prohibited from gun ownership, including the intellectually incompetent and those convicted of violent crimes, from qualifying for the carry privilege.
Pruett suggested House leadership blocked his bill. “I've been told the House Republican leadership is going to kill the bill," Pruett told the Coeur d’Alene Press. "We are working to find out why they decided to kill it."
Bedke says that’s not so. Instead of a definite block of Pruett’s bill, Bedke said he’s only opting to use a proven playbook to move firearm legislation.
“The last couple years, we’ve found a winning formula that moves gun legislation in the Idaho House and the Idaho Senate and gets it to the governor’s desk,” Bedke explained. That method involves using an ad hoc group to review gun issues. The group includes Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, and Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, among others.
In 2014, the group helped steer through to passage a bill that allowed concealed weapons, under certain conditions, to be allowed on college campuses. Bedke says the group continues to support additional gun rights.
“All of them are pro-2nd Amendment,” Bedke said. “We have worked out differences in that group.”
The speaker said he routes firearms bills through the informal panel only to avoid legislative grandstanding, bickering and infighting. “On the right to bear arms, we want to rise above that,” he said.
Still, lawmakers in control of the process continue taking heat for delaying the measure. One gun forum asserts House leadership wants to “bury” constitutional carry and asks readers to contact Bedke and his lieutenants.
Lawmakers, including State Affairs Committee Chair Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, also receive copious criticism on social media outlets. The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, for one, recently asked its members to pressure Loertscher to give House Bill 89 a hearing.
Bedke says he’s not sure if Pruett’s bill is the right one, though the speaker declared support for pushing forward gun rights in 2015. “I’m told there’s other stuff in the works,” he said. “It’s all going to the end of furthering gun rights.”
Is constitutional carry appropriate for Idaho? Bedke believes it’s already the law of the land, at least in much of the state. “It’s my impression we already have constitutional carry in the state of Idaho except within city limits under certain circumstances,” he said. “I’m fully supportive of maintaining at least that.”
That aligns closely with a differing gun bill under consideration in the Idaho Senate. Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, pitched legislation to enact constitutional carry outside of city limits. That bill was introduced last week.
Still, Bedke wants gun rights backers to know he’s with them. “This thing has taken on a life of its own,” he said of the complaints surrounding House Bill 89.
He said he only sought to optimize the process and give gun rights advocates -- not control-minded legislators -- the opportunity to vet legislation, which would nearly guarantee passage in both chambers.
“That’s all we were doing,” he explained.