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Opinion: Maine expands gun rights while Idaho lawmakers balk

Opinion: Maine expands gun rights while Idaho lawmakers balk

Wayne Hoffman
July 10, 2015

Idaho lawmakers should take note of what just happened in Maine. On Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage signed a bill that will let Mainers carry a concealed weapon without a permit. That makes Maine the seventh state to allow guns to be carried outside of view and under clothing without government permission.

Maine’s action is notable because Idaho’s Legislature has a gaggle of members professing adoration of the Second Amendment. Yet, unlike Maine, where concealed carry legislation was allowed to advance and reach the governor, an Idaho bill to allow permitless concealed carry was denied a hearing in the 2015 legislative session.

Instead, Idaho lawmakers considered and passed a bill clarifying that a concealed carry permit is not required when outside city limits. Previously a permit wasn’t required for “recreational activities” outside of city limits, but “recreational activities” were never defined.

Legislators who balked at doing more—including House Bill 89’s outright end to requiring licenses for concealed weapons—said the proposal wasn’t drafted well enough; that the bill might have interfered with Idahoans’ ability to carry concealed weapons in other states; and that supporters of the bill failed to follow an unwritten protocol requiring gun legislation to be vetted through an off-the-books panel of legislators from the House and the Senate.

Yet the action of the Maine Legislature—with a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democratic-controlled House—proves it’s not so complicated, and the policy even enjoys bipartisan support.

The real reason that House Bill 89 didn’t go anywhere is that some legislators in Idaho aren’t supportive of the policy; they needed to be protected from having to publicly cast a vote against gun legislation in a wildly pro-gun state. And they were. The bill was shoved in a drawer and never allowed to see sunlight. Because the bill was quietly denied a hearing in a shadowy behind-the-scenes manner, you can only guess which legislators are the roadblock. No one is fessing up.

Backers of the Idaho bill were provided a plethora of excuses as to why it couldn’t be done. And perhaps not anticipating that other states would move more proactively to expand gun rights, they thought you’d applaud their persistence in clarifying existing state law, even though the clarification falls well short of the type of the real meaningful pro-gun legislation that will soon benefit Maine residents.

It’s not just Maine where legislators are working hard to repeal gun restrictions. In New Hampshire, a bill to allow permitless concealed carry passed through the Republican-controlled New Hampshire General Court, that state’s Legislature, this year, but the governor, Democrat Maggie Hassan, vetoed it.

Still, New Hampshire and Maine both prove that it is possible to have a rigorous debate on the merits of our existing system that requires people to have a license in order to enjoy one’s Second Amendment rights. That debate can yield substantive public policy reforms resulting in tremendous benefits to citizens. That’s the debate Maine lawmakers had, and whose governor rewarded them with a signed bill lifting a significant restriction on the Second Amendment.

Idaho lawmakers say they hold the Second Amendment in the highest esteem. The evidence speaks to the contrary. In Maine, lawmakers passed and their governor signed a bill to allow law-abiding citizens to conceal and carry a weapon without permission from the government. Further evidence that Idaho lawmakers unequivocally believe in personal responsibility and constitutional rights, except for when they don’t.

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