Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lawmakers React to Senate Committee's Decision to Scrap House Bill Eliminating Concealed-Carry Exemption for Legislators

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 12:55 PM

The Senate State Affairs Committee on March 10 voted to scrap a bill already passed in the House that would strip legislators of their right to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

The measure, HB 514, was introduced in the wake of controversy surrounding former Boise Rep. Mark Patterson, whose concealed weapons permit was revoked after it was revealed he’d hidden a 40-year-old rape charge when applying for the license. Despite losing the permit, Patterson was allowed to keep his concealed carry privileges because of a special exemption for lawmakers. Patterson resigned his position in December 2013 after a vote of no confidence from fellow Republicans.

While the bill tightened concealed-carry rules for legislators, it loosened restrictions for those outside city limits—making it legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit while hunting, fishing or engaging in other outdoor activities.

Though approved in a 62-7 House vote last month, members of the Senate State Affairs Committee, led by Republican gubernatorial candidate Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian, dumped the law, citing a heightened need for self-protection among lawmakers.

According to the Spokesman-Review, Fulcher defended the decision, saying “the majority of the citizenry does not put themselves in the same set of circumstances that those of us do who have chosen and who have been privileged to be elected officials. … It’s not the same for me as it is for the 35,000, 40,000 people that are my constituents.”

Supporters of HB 514, both in the House and Senate, were quick to express astonishment at the decision to drop the bill.

Meridian Republican Sen. Marv Hagedorn, who introduced the bill to the Senate committee, took to Twitter March 11 to vent his frustration:

“I was quite frankly shocked. … Our bill passed resoundingly in the House and all but 2 members of the committee voted it down. … It was supported by the Sheriffs, NRA and a number of pro-gun groups as a great step forward. Still befuddled…”

Freshman Coeur d’Alene Republican Rep. Luke Malek, who helped draft the bill in the House, posted his reaction on Facebook:

“I honestly cannot believe what happened this morning,” he wrote March 10. “My head is spinning. I feel like I am in the twilight zone.”

Nampa Republican Rep. Rick Youngblood told the Spokesman-Review that the bill will likely return next session.

“We’re not better than our voting public,” he told Spokesman-Reeview's Statehouse correspondent Betsy Z. Russell. “I will certainly take a run at it again next year. I just think it’s that important.”

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