A Senate panel has sidetracked a plan to exclude guns made in Idaho from federal regulation. The backers of the plan say it’s designed to ignite a court battle with the federal government over the power to regulate business activity within a state. However, members of the Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday sent the plan to the amending order, where it faces changes and delays final passage of the plan.
“The states have the rights to control commerce within their own state,” said Rep. Dick Harwood, R-St. Maries. The legislation would only apply to guns and parts manufactured in Idaho. Rep. Phil Hart, R-Athol, called the gun regulations a perfect opportunity to challenge the Interstate Commerce Clause, which allows the federal government to regulate business across state lines.
Senators raised several questions about the legislation. Sen. Joe Stegner, R-Lewiston, questioned why the legislation says that small parts that go into a gun, including screws, nuts, and springs, that are shipped in from out of Idaho can be considered part of a gun made entirely in Idaho. Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, also said Hart and Harwood should change an “or” in the legislation to an “and.” Sending the plan to the amending order allows for those sections to be changed, but could stall the plan for the rest of the legislative session.
“We’re hopeful that the leadership thinks this is important,” Hart said. He said the changes could clean up the language of the legislation
“I hope that they can get this done and we can get this to the governor’s desk,” Harwood said, who added that he didn’t understand Stegner’s issue with out-of-state screws and springs. Harwood added that the governor’s office helped him craft the legislation.
Several senators also asked how much the state could pay in legal fees from a lawsuit stemming from the legislation. The text of the plan says the state would cover the legal costs of protecting Idaho citizens. “We don’t expect that our attorney general will really have to weigh in on this case,” Hart said. He added that several private think tanks have offered to pay for court challenges to the legislation. Several other states, including Montana and Wyoming, have similar laws on the books, and more than a dozen state legislatures are looking at adding the laws.
Senate Minority Leader Kate Kelly, D-Boise, also raised concerns that people who shouldn’t carry guns, like people on parole or flying on airplanes that stay in Idaho, would be allowed to under the changes. Hart said that wouldn’t be the case, and said lawmakers could come back next year to clarify who could own and carry a gun manufactured in Idaho.