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Idaho Senate votes to repeal anti-militia law

Heath Druzin
/
Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s anti-militia statute is one step closer to being repealed after state senators voted Monday to dump the law.

Passed in 1927, the law currently on the books bans private militia groups from parading in public while armed.

Idaho has a troubled history with militias and other armed groups, including the white supremacist Aryan Nations formerly headquartered outside Coeur d’Alene.

Anti-extremism experts argue the law is constitutional and has been upheld in federal courts for decades. A similar statute was used to successfully sue militias who showed up to the white nationalist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

The proposal would keep one aspect of the current law, which prohibits cities and towns from supporting or outfitting private militias.

Senate Assistant Minority Leader James Ruchti (D-Pocatello) opposes the change and says the state doesn’t have other criminal charges to stop these groups on the front end.

“Once the private militia starts taking actions, overthrowing governments, taking over buildings, do other activities as a private militia, then the law steps in,” said Ruchti. “But by then, it’s too late.”

Republican Sen. Dan Foreman (R-Moscow), who sponsors the bill, said the current law infringes on people’s First Amendment Rights.

“We should not legislate out of fear. We should not curtail constitutional rights out of fear or assumptions,” Foreman said.

Previously, he said two sheriffs in his area welcome private militias in cases of civil unrest.

House lawmakers could take up the issue next.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season.

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