Speaker of the House Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, said Thursday he will deploy a secret gun committee to vet a bill that would allow Idahoans to conceal firearms without a permit.
Bedke, speaking to reporters at a briefing ahead of next week’s legislative session kick-off, offered tepid support for permitless concealed carry.
“I would be supportive [of permitless carry] in concept,” Bedke told reporters.
Two House Republican caucus members, freshman Reps. Ron Nate of Rexburg and Heather Scott of Blanchard, announced this week they will introduce a permitless carry bill in the upcoming session’s first two weeks.
That announcement included quotes from Bedke borrowed from a Post Register article. In the piece, Bedke signaled permitless carry could pass in 2016 after it failed last year.
Though he’s conceptually supportive, Bedke will ask an off-the-books gun committee to vet the bill before it moves forward.
“It’s a time-honored practice,” Bedke said of the special committee, “and it’s worked.”
Gun rights activists introduced the 2015 version in the State House Affairs Committee, but didn’t submit the proposal to Bedke’s secret gun panel.
House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, refused to give the bill a hearing, in part because the plan wasn’t vetted by the secret gun panel.
Bedke hinted at how Nate and Scott should proceed. “I’m not going to require [vetting by the ad hoc gun committee], but I’m going to urge,” the speaker said.
The Oakley Republican wasn’t the only Republican unwilling to take a strong stand for permitless carry. Gov. Butch Otter declined to say if he’d sign a permitless carry bill if one lands on his desk this year.
“I have no idea what this bill is going to look like,” Otter explained.
Even then, the governor said, legislators will disagree whether the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee the right to carry concealed weapons without a permit.
“You're going to have to define constitutional carry,” the governor said, using the proposal’s other common moniker.
If lawmakers consider the bill, Bedke pledged to prevent felons or the mentally ill from concealing weapons without permits. “There are certain members of society who should not be entitled to [carry without a permit],” Bedke said.
The House speaker took a subtle swipe at the two freshman lawmakers, suggesting the issue might prove more complex than Nate and Scott believe.
“It’s not as simple as I used to think it was,” Bedke said.
If Idaho adopts the plan, it would become the ninth state to allow permitless carry.