Three committee chairs vote against concealed carry bill as it advances to Otter

Dustin Hurst Headlines

Three high-profile Republican House members opposed a bill Friday that would allow permitless concealed carry throughout Idaho.

Despite the opposition from most House Democrats and Reps. Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, Rep. Rich Wills, R-Glenns Ferry, and Fred Wood, R-Burley, the bill cleared the chamber on 54 to 14 vote and now moves to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk for his consideration.

The bill would give Idahoans 21 years of age and older the right to conceal-carry firearms without a statewide permit, something they’ve only been able to do outside city limits.

Idahoans between the ages of 18 and 20 would still have to take a safety training class and pay a fee to secure a permit if they want to conceal firearms inside city limits. This age group is still allowed to conceal firearms outside of city limits.

The bill would have no effect on Idaho’s permitting system, other than to make it optional. If Idahoans want to conceal-carry in another state, with which Idaho has reciprocity agreements, gun owners could still get a permit for that purpose.

The plan, sponsored by Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, in the House, would not allow teachers to carry in public schools unless their districts have explicitly granted that privilege. Anyone who wants to carry on public college campuses would still have to obtain an enhanced-carry permit.

Loertscher, who came under fire from gun owners for blocking a similar bill during the 2015 legislative session, said the measure brings Idaho closer to fully recognizing Second Amendment rights.

During his closing debate, Loertscher urged gun owners train themselves on firearm safety and educate themselves on where guns would still be banned should the bill become law.

“Training is so important,” Loertscher said. He added, gun owners must “have a sense of responsibility” to match their newfound expansion of rights.

Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said guns expand public safety by giving Idahoans the ability to defend themselves.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s one single person, if it saves their life, that’s a huge statistic,” Boyle told colleagues. “Life is priceless and the Second Amendment is priceless.”

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, voiced concerns about gun safety and suicide, and suggested the bill would increase firearm-related accidents and violence.

Neither Wood nor Bell explained their opposition to the measure during a lengthy debate prior to the vote. Neither returned a call from IdahoReporter.com asking for comment on the issue.

Wood and Bell weren’t the only lawmakers to cross the aisle on the issue. House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, voted for the plan, and is the only legislative Democrat to vote for it.

Rusche did move for a reconsideration vote on the measure, but was easily rejected.

The bill had the backing of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, National Rifle Association, Fraternal Order of Police and Idaho Sheriffs Association, among others.

A handful of urban police chiefs, including Boise’s Bill Bones, opposed the bill in a recent newspaper column. New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s organization, Everytown for Gun Safety, also opposed the bill, and earlier this week ran a newspaper ad urging lawmakers to oppose it.

The bill now heads to Otter’s desk. The third-term governor was less-than-enthused about the concept at a pre-session press conference held in January, but he didn’t offer concrete support or opposition to the concept. Earlier this week Lt. Gov. Brad Little endorsed the plan in a column released to the public.

Note: The original version of this story did not note Rep. Rich Wills’ vote against the bill. The body reflects the update. IdahoReporter regrets the omission.