Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has signed a bill allowing Idaho citizens over the age of 21 to conceal-carry firearms without a permit inside city limits.
The bill also allows Idahoans between the ages of 18 and 21 to conceal carry firearms without a permit at the discretion of local sheriffs.
Critics of the bill said it upends a century of Idaho law barring the concealed-carry of firearms without a permit inside city limits, and many worried its passage would have unintended consequences on the rate of gun violence. Its proponents said it smoothed Idaho law and strengthened Second Amendment freedoms.
In signing the bill into law, Otter offered a letter to the Legislature and the public stressing the language of the Second Amendment and voicing concern about the absence of a provision in the bill requiring firearms training for permitless concealed weapons carriers.
"In the absence of such a provision, I encourage anyone considering concealed carry to take advantage of gun safety training opportunities available from many reputable sources throughout Idaho. I also encourage the Legislature to monitor the exercise of this new law and respond appropriately when and if the lack of a statutory education and training requirement undermines public safety."
Updated March 18, 2 p.m.:
A bill that would make it legal for Idaho citizens over the age of 21 to concealed-carry firearms within city limits has cleared the Idaho Legislature after the Idaho House voted 54-15 in favor of SB 1389. It's now headed to the desk of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter for his signature.
Three Republicans—Reps. Maxine Bell (R-Jerome), Richard Willis (R-Glenns Ferry) and Fred Wood (R-Burley)—joined 12 Democrats in voting against the bill that would also allow Idahoans ages 18-21 to concealed-carry firearms within city limits with a permit at the discretion of the local county sheriff.
Original Post March 17, 1:41 p.m.:
Members of the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted March 17 to send SB 1389, a bill that would allow Idaho citizens to carry concealed weapons without a permit within city limits, to the full House.
Quoting the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, Rep. Pete Nielsen (R-Mountain Home) hailed the measure as a step toward gun rights as articulated by the nation's founders.
"This bill gets us a lot closer to not being 'infringed,'" he said.
Proponents of the bill said it would sync city and county rules concerning the concealed carry of guns. Meanwhile, its critics have said it undermines law enforcement and ignores cities' safety concerns.
The measure would lift permit requirements for gun owners ages 21 and over; allow gun owners ages 18-21 the right to concealed carry without a permit outside city limits; and grant the right to concealed-carry within city limits with a permit at the discretion of the local county sheriff.
Testimony before the committee was heated at times. One citizen who testified before the committee, Bryan Carter, said he supported the bill, despite the activities of "anti-civil rights groups" that he characterized as "rebelliously refusing to recognize the value of human life."
Another citizen, Dianna David, told the committee she couldn't support the bill after she lost a family member to gun violence, adding permitless concealed carry in cities would increase the risk of firearm accidents and death.
"I'm here because I don't want anyone in this room, anyone on this planet, to experience what I have," she said.
According to Michael Kane, lobbyist for the Idaho Sheriffs' Association, more than two-thirds of the members of his organization voted to support SB 1389. Speaking as a former law enforcement official, Kane added that while it is useful for officers to know whether someone holds a permit for a firearm, officers must assume a subject is armed regardless of whether he or she has a permit for safety reasons.
"[Whether a subject is a permit-holder] is not the be-all and end-all," he said. "People are going to commit crimes irrespective of a background check; irrespective of permits. It's just going to happen."
Legislators had their own concerns with the bill. Reps. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens) and Elaine Smith (D-Pocatello) both said their constituents had contacted them to express strong feelings on either side of the issue. Rep. Brent Crane (R-Nampa) told the committee anti-gun groups have tried to incrementally "encroach" on Second Amendment rights through legislation.
"We have no right to infringe on people's right to keep and bear arms," he said.
Rep. Linden Bateman (R-Idaho Falls) said his primary concern was firearm accident rates, describing a gun accident during which his father was shot through the hand. He asked several experts who testified on the bill if they had any data showing whether concealed carry within city limits had a statistical impact on unintentional gun violence.
"No one's been able to show me an increase in crime or accidents," he said during discussion on a motion to send the bill to the full House. "I guess I'm going to have to support this bill."
The bill was sent to the full Idaho House of Representatives on a 13-4 vote.