Idaho Politicians, Activists Prepare More Gun Legislation

Jul 2, 2019

Monday was the day new laws went onto the books in Idaho, but politicians and activists are already looking toward the next legislative session. A flurry of gun-related bills this year saw mixed success and it looks like the 2020 session will see more fights over firearms.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise), center, huddles with other members of the Idaho House of Representatives during the 2019 legislative session.
Credit Heath Druzin / Boise State Public Radio

One of the legislators at the center of those fights has been Rep. Melissa Wintrow (D-Boise). Despite setbacks, she said she is continuing her push to remove guns from convicted abusers.

Last session, Wintrow’s bill to temporarily bar anyone convicted of sexual battery of a 16 or 17 year old from possessing a gun died in the Senate. She has also tried for two years to get Idaho in line with federal law and temporarily confiscate guns from anyone convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse. That failed in 2018 and this year she couldn’t get enough support to even introduce a bill.

Wintrow said that given the connection between abuse and homicide, she won’t give up.

“Just look at the numbers of fatalities in our state in the last year-and-a-half and it’s pretty high,” she said.

Annie Hightower, director of law and policy for the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, has worked with Wintrow on these issues. She said the current climate around gun rights makes any legislation mentioning guns a potential flashpoint.

“Obviously there is opposition to any type of firearms legislation in Idaho and so, we’ve gotta figure out who will be our champions and what hearts and minds we need to change and how we do that,” she said.

One obstacle to such gun legislation is opposition from the pro-gun Idaho 2nd Amendment Alliance. They have put legislators on notice that support for just about any legislation curtailing anyone’s gun rights could cost them their seats. That group’s president, Greg Pruett, has his own ambitious goal next session: He wants a constitutional amendment to kill Idaho’s ballot initiative system.

Speaking on Thursday at a rally on the Capitol steps organized by hardline conservative members of the Idaho GOP, Pruett said he sees ballot initiatives as a backdoor for liberals to chip away at the 2nd Amendment.

“At some point they will try ballot initiatives in Idaho to squash gun rights,” he said.

It’s only July, so it will be months before these efforts take shape, but expect the gun debate to be center stage again next session.

Follow Heath Druzin on Twitter, @HDruzin

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