Like many states, Idaho has what is called a “preemption law” that prohibits municipalities from infringing on the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. Specifically, Idaho Code, section 18-3302J, states that “Except as expressly authorized by state statute, no county, city, agency, board or any other political subdivision of this state may adopt or enforce any law, rule, regulation, or ordinance which regulates in any manner the sale, acquisition, transfer, ownership, possession, transportation, carrying or storage of firearms or any element relating to firearms and components thereof, including ammunition.”
The only exception to this law is the discharge of firearms. In other words, so long as a firearm is not actually fired, municipalities are not allowed to limit or prohibit its ownership or possession.
Despite this very clear statute, there are still some municipalities in Idaho attempting to regulate or prohibit the carry of firearms. Fortunately, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance has begun to challenge these unlawful regulations through a comprehensive endeavor called the “Preemption Project.”
So far the Preemption Project has made contact with 14 cities and counties and has brought to their attention the fact that their ordinances are out of compliance with state law. The response has been fairly positive overall. Seven of the 14 have either agreed to suspend their policies or are taking steps to do so.
Unfortunately, Coeur d’Alene is not being nearly as cooperative. Rather than repeal the offending regulations, the city is stubbornly clinging to its illegal gun laws.
While the Preemption Project is a great effort, what may ultimately be needed is a law similar to what currently exists in Florida. There, cities or counties violating the state preemption law are held liable for their actions. The code states that “if any county, city, town, or other local government violates this section [state preemption], the court shall declare the improper ordinance, regulation, or rule invalid and issue a permanent injunction against the local government prohibiting it from enforcing such ordinance, regulation, or rule.”
The Florida statute declares that if a violation of the preemption law “was knowing and willful, the court shall assess a civil fine of up to $5,000 against the elected or appointed local government official or officials or administrative agency head under whose jurisdiction the violation occurred.” It also allows for awarding attorney fees to the aggrieved parties and makes willful violation by a government employee “cause for termination of employment or contract or removal from office by the Governor.”
Idaho’s current preemption law lacks the teeth contained in Florida’s version, and Coeur d’Alene’s obstinacy shows why Idaho needs to adopt similar language. Idahoans need to push back against illegal municipal ordinances both by advocating tougher preemption laws and by working to inform city councils and county commissions about these issues. We are already making some good progress, but there still remains more to be done to protect and preserve our right to keep and bear arms.