Rep. R.J. "Dick" Harwood, R-St. Maries, wants to start a gun fight with the federal government. Harwood successfully introduced the bill that would do just that, dubbed the "Idaho Firearms Freedom Act ."
According to the text of the legislation, the bill would seek to make Idaho "the freest state in the Union" and would prohibit the federal government from regulating guns in Idaho which meet certain conditions. Under the provisions in the legislation, any firearm, firearm accessory, or ammunition manufactured in Idaho owned by a citizen living within the borders of the state would be exempt from federal authority. All guns built in Idaho would be required to have a "Made in Idaho" tag engraved on a "central metallic part."
The bill also contains a provision that allows the Constitutional Defense Council to use state funds to enter into litigation with the federal government should a challenge to the law arise. According to Rep. Eric Anderson, R-Priest Lake, the state has set aside approximately $240,000 in that account.
This is not the first bill that is an attempt to set up a fight with the feds. Rep. Jim Clark's, R-Hayden, Idaho Health Freedom Act, which passed the full House and its Senate committee, also seeks to challenge the federal government, though on the grounds of pending federal heath care legislation. Clark's bill does not draw on funds from the Constitutional Defense Fund, but rather a possible $100,000 appropriation which might not even be needed should a court battle ensue.
In the hearing Thursday, Harwood admitted he wants to set up a battle with the feds.
"We as a state need to be able to control our own commerce within our own state," said Harwood. He said that he feels that the right to bear arms in the country and the state of Idaho has been "compromised," though it is clearly outlined in the Idaho Constitution.
Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, questioned Harwood about the legality of the legislation.
"Did you get an opinion from the attorney general?" asked Pasley-Stuart. Harwood said that he attempted to obtain one, but the attorney general's office was unable to comment because of a pending court case involving the state of Montana and the federal government over the same issue. Montana and Tennessee are the only states to enact legislation of this kind, though the Utah Legislature has approved its own version of the bill. It awaits the signature of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
The State Affairs Committee agreed to introduce the bill, despite objecting votes from Pasley-Stuart and Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise. The legislation awaits further deliberation by the committee.