It’s an endorsement four years in the making.
The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, a Gem State-based gun rights group, announced its endorsement of a new Senate bill that would bring permitless carry to Idaho.
In a video post to the group’s Facebook page, ISAA President Greg Pruett of Middleton lauded the bill, and encouraged his members to pressure state senators to pass the measure.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Caldwell, introduced the bill Monday morning and his Senate State Affairs Committee will likely hear the proposal again within the next few legislative days.
Pruett, who founded ISAA to advance Idaho toward permitless carry, offered some cautious optimism for the bill.
“We’d like to see it go further, but it does expand gun rights,” Pruett said. “It does cover most adults living here in the state of Idaho.”
The bill isn’t perfect, at least in Pruett’s estimation. The plan would require some Idahoans -- young men and women between 18 and 20 years old -- to take a gun safety class before being allowed to conceal their handguns.
He won’t let perfect be the enemy of the good, though. After pressing for permitless carry for four years, Pruett’s ready to move forward.
“We’re just glad to have a hearing, for crying out loud,” he said Tuesday.
Last year, Pruett introduced House Bill 89, his own permitless carry bill, but House State Affairs Chairman Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, refused to give it a full hearing. After gun rights groups bombarded Loertscher’s home phone with calls over the issue, the chairman lashed out at the activists in a House floor speech.
This year looks to be much different for Pruett and the permitless carry issue.
For starters, Loertscher finds himself among the sponsors of the bill, along with House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, and Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale.
The 2016 bill also has the backing of the National Rifle Association, which the 2015 version did not.
Pruett doesn’t plan to let up on legislators during hearings. He knows a bill can die at any stage of the game, though he doesn’t anticipate any huge stumbling blocks.
The Idaho Sheriffs Association endorsed an earlier version of the 2016 bill, introduced last week. That version unintentionally stripped some 18-20 year olds of their permitless carry rights altogether, leading to the new draft introduced this week.
ISA Executive Director Vaughn Killeen told IdahoReporter.com, Gem State sheriffs endorsed the prior iteration by an “overwhelming” majority, and anticipates a similar vote on the new language. That vote for his members, he added, closes tomorrow night.
The sheriffs do have at least one minor concern with the language. Killeen said the new bill changes how peace officers can carry concealed weapons without a permit, and may lead to unintended consequences for off-duty officers who might want to respond to emergencies.
If both legislative chambers approve the measure, it would head to Gov. Butch Otter for final consideration. Otter has wavered on the concept in the past and took a noncommittal stance during a press conference earlier this year.
Even so, Pruett remains hopeful.
“I would be surprised, in an election year, if [Otter] vetoes the bill if it gets to his desk,” Pruett said.