A bill that some have called "likely unconstitutional" was passed by both houses of the Idaho Legislature and now heads to the desk of Gov. Butch Otter for consideration. The final approval came from the House after senators sent the legislation, which originated in the House, back with a few changes. Representatives voted 53-15 to approve the legislation with the changes made by Senators.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. R.J. “Dick” Harwood, R-St. Maries, and Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, along with eight others. Harwood told lawmakers that his bill is intentionally setting up a lawsuit with the federal government. Harwood said the aim of the bill is to challenge precedence over who is allowed to regulate intrastate commerce in Idaho.
Five states, including Montana, which is leading the charge on this issue, have successfully passed similar bills. The state of Alaska passed it through its House and it now resides in its Senate awaiting a hearing. Harwood told lawmakers that 20 more states are considering comparable legislation.
The bill would prohibit the federal government from regulating guns in Idaho. 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. The state has set aside approximately $240,000 in that account. Harwood said the money could also be used to shield private businesses from federal penalties that could result from the dispute between Idaho and the federal government.
The amendment approved by senators is designed to control potential costs of the bill. The change would only allow the state to shield citizens or businesses in civil legal matters and not in criminal cases. The amendment also makes minor changes dealing with screws and springs used in gun production that may be shipped in from out of state but are used to build guns in Idaho.