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Harwood's gun fight stalls for now

Harwood's gun fight stalls for now

Dustin Hurst
March 3, 2010
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March 3, 2010

Rep. R.J. "Dick" Harwood's, R-St. Maries, gunfight with the feds has stalled on two concerns raised by lawmakers: one that it may be unconstitutional, and the other that the marking to be engraved on guns produced in Idaho might not be specific enough.

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.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, questioned Harwood on the engraving, asking if the marking goes far enough.  Luker said that if the plan is to be enacted correctly the gun would also need to contain the phrase "For use in Idaho."  Harwood said he would need to consult with the bill's co-sponsors to see if the change would be in order.  The legislation has 10 co-sponsors.

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.

Some legislators objected to the possible costs of a lawsuit, including Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City.  Higgins questioned Harwood on the necessity of potentially costly litigation during a time when the state needs to be funding other programs, like education and social services.  Harwood said the general fund of the state would not be impacted by a lawsuit and that the state needs to work to protect the right to bear arms.

Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, provided committee members with an opinion from the attorney general's office, which said that the power to nullify federal laws is not within the scope of the Idaho Legislature.  The opinion also said that Harwood's bill may actually be unconstitutional.

To that, Harwood replied that he feels "the supreme law of the land sometimes is maybe not always right."  Harwood said that regardless of the opinion, he would press on with the legislation and challenge the federal government's role in intrastate commerce.

Luker's motion to hold the bill to allow the co-sponsors more time to work on the bill and retool language if necessary passed and the issue will be pushed to a later date.

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