Rep. R.J. "Dick" Harwood, R-St. Maries, returned to the House State Affairs Committee Thursday to continue working toward picking gunfight with the federal government.
Tuesday, Harwood's bill to prohibit the federal government from regulating guns which are produced and used solely in Idaho was held because of concerns raised by Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, that the bill would be unconstitutional when enacted into law.
Thursday, Harwood brought in Brian Kane from the state attorney general's office to answer questions from committee members about the constitutionality of legislation. Kane told lawmakers that as law currently stands, the bill could be interpreted as unconstitutional, but due to pending lawsuits in the courts which he was unable to comment on specifically, Harwood's bill could be perfectly legal.
Harwood looked to move the conversation on the bill in a different direction following Kane's testimony before the committee. He told lawmakers that the point of the legislation was not to give the state authority over guns, but rather would start a fight with the federal government over the regulation of commerce within the borders of the state.
"This is automatically going to end up in a court case, that was the object of this bill," said Harwood. If the bill does start the fight he is looking for, Harwood's bill allows money from the state's Constitutional Defense Fund to be used to pay court costs and attorney's fees. Idaho has $240,000 in that account.
Even if the measure is passed in the full House and Senate, Kane believes the law would still face an "incredibly tough" journey in becoming enforceable. Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, questioned Kane on Montana's court case with the federal government, which is one of the battles currently pending in the judicial process. Higgins said she wants to know what happens if Montana's bill, which is very similar to Harwood's proposed legislation, is thrown out in court.
"Would it automatically become null and void?" said Higgins. Kane said that there is no mechanism to make any law null and void, though if the Montana law is thrown out, enforcement of the provisions on Idaho would be difficult. Kane added that to remove the law fully, legislators would be required to return to the issue and repeal it, if they so desired.
Legislators approved the measure, sending it to the House floor for a vote. The only two dissenting votes came from Higgins, and Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise.