Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, wants voters in his district to know he’s not going to vote to ban any of their guns.
“I don’t want to take anyone’s guns,” Romrell said.
The two-term Republican is taking heat after the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, a leading state-wide gun rights group, posted his answer to a candidate survey, which the group sent out last month.
The ISAA survey asked Romrell, his District 35 Republican primary challenger Karey Hanks, and all other candidates in contested Statehouse races, if they would oppose attempts to ban semi-automatic assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
That’s where the water muddies. On the survey, Romrell answered with a simple no. Hanks answered yes and pledged to fight such bans.
Romrell said the two-part question has caused him problems. He told IdahoReporter.com Monday that he has no intention of banning semiautomatic rifles.
High-capacity magazines, on the other hand, give him some “heartburn.” Rather than providing a simple up-or-down vote on a survey, Romrell said he’d like to examine any legislation restricting the sale of high-capacity magazines.
“Sportsmen don’t need 200-round magazines,” said Romrell, who on Monday won a National Rifle Association endorsement. “Someone who wants to kill a lot of people could ask for a large magazine.”
That’s a common refrain for some American politicians, typically those on the left side of the political spectrum. A number of U.S. cities, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Francisco, have banned or restricted the sale of the high-capacity magazines within their municipal limits.
On the national level, campaigning on the issue in Connecticut just days ago, Democratic presidential nomination front-runner Hillary Clinton has signaled support for banning or restricting high-capacity magazines. Her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-avowed socialist, has voted in the past to restrict the magazines.
A number of gun control groups have also advocated for a similar approach. Nevertheless, banning large magazines has its critics. A federal law that expired in 2004 defined any magazine holding more than 10 rounds as large. Jacob Sullum, senior editor at Reason.org, explained why some folks might want more than 10 rounds in their clip:
Magazine size is more likely to matter for people defending against aggressors, which is why it is dangerously presumptuous for the government to declare that no one needs to fire more than X number of rounds. As self-defense experts such as firearms instructor Massad Ayoob point out, there are various scenarios, including riots, home invasions, and public attacks by multiple aggressors, in which a so-called large-capacity magazine can make a crucial difference, especially when you recognize that people firing weapons under pressure do not always hit their targets and that assailants are not always stopped by a single round.
Idaho Second Amendment Alliance President Greg Pruett, who lives in Middleton, blasted Romrell’s remarks on such a ban.
“Rep. Romrell has shown a clear lack of understanding of the real meaning of the Second Amendment,” Pruett said today. “The Second Amendment is not about what a sportsman might need for hunting. It’s about defending our country from tyranny.”
Romrell’s opponent, fellow Republican Karey Hanks, said as long as gun-owners follow the law, the magazine size shouldn’t matter that much, if at all.
“The more people carry, the safer we are,” Hanks said. “Then if someone starts shooting, we can limit the carnage.”
Hanks added a common refrain for Second Amendment defenders: “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people. [Criminals] will find a weapon.”
A study released in 2015 by researchers from Columbia University and Boston University revealed that 56.9 percent of Idahoans own firearms. This places Idahoans in the top handful of states nationally for gun ownership. Alaska sits atop the chart, with 61.7 percent of its residents being declared gun owners.
Delaware, with only 5.2 percent of residents declaring gun ownership in that study, rests at the bottom of the 50 states.
Despite Idaho’s high gun ownership rates, 2014 Federal Bureau of Investigation data suggest Idahoans are just as likely to be murdered by a person with a gun as they are by someone using a knife, their hands and feet, or other weapons.