Bill Description: Senate Bill 1173 would clarify and potentially limit when one can engage in the "defensive display or declaration of a firearm."
NOTE: Senate Bill 1173 was amended in the Senate to remove the word "immediately" as indicated in the analysis below. While this change makes a small improvement to the bill, it does not change the rating or substantively change the analysis.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Examples include restrictions on speech, public assembly, the press, privacy, private property, or firearms. Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
Senate Bill 1173 would amend Section 19-202, Idaho Code, dealing with "resistance by [a] threatened party" to say, "The defensive display or declaration of a firearm by a person is justified when and to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect the person or another person against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force, including deadly force."
It goes on to say, "The provisions of this subsection do not apply to someone who intentionally provokes another person to use or attempt to use unlawful physical force or deadly physical force."
It defines "defensive display or declaration of a firearm" to include "verbally informing another person that the person possesses or has available a firearm" and "exposing, displaying, or placing a person's hand on a firearm while the firearm is contained in a holster, pocket, purse, or other means of containment or transport in a manner that a reasonable person would understand was meant to protect the person or another against an unlawful use or attempted use of physical force or deadly physical force."
Finally, the bill says, "The provisions of this section do not require a defensive display or declaration of a firearm before the use of physical force or deadly physical force, or threat of physical force or deadly physical force, by a person who is otherwise justified in the use or threatened use of physical force or deadly physical force."
While this bill is probably well-intentioned and designed to protect gun owners who use their firearms responsibly, it is concerning that actions, which are already broadly legal, need to be specifically legalized within limited parameters.
Open carry is legal in Idaho, and a person who strategically switches from concealed to open carry does so lawfully. There is an Idaho law (§18-3303) which makes it a crime to "draw or exhibit any deadly weapon in a rude, angry and threatening manner," but simply exposing a holstered handgun to send a subtle warning doesn't fall under this prohibition.
Under the new language created by Senate Bill 1173, however, such an action could be considered the "defensive display or declaration of a firearm" in a case that has not yet escalated to a point where "physical force is immediately necessary."
Additionally troubling is that Senate Bill 1173 purports to limit even "verbally informing another person that the person possesses or has available a firearm" to situations where "physical force is immediately necessary." This seems, at minimum, to infringe on freedom of speech.
There are significant de-escalation benefits to letting it be known that one is armed, and this type of warning can help prevent a situation from reaching the point where "physical force is immediately necessary." Requiring or expecting a gun owner to wait until a situation escalates before offering a warning about the downsides of such escalation seems unwise, to say the least.
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