- Harrison Berry
- Dakota Moore of the National Rifle Association (left) and Greg Pruett of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance (right) huddle during the public hearing for the open-carry gun bill.
During a sometimes tense public hearing March 14, members of the public, law enforcement and other stakeholders had a chance to weigh in on the controversial firearms bill SB 1389, which would allow gun owners aged 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon without a permit within city limits.
Proponents said the measure brings into sync city and county rules concerning concealed carry of guns, but critics said it would undermine law enforcement and make cities—and citizens—less safe.
Some, like Star resident Matt Vraspir, told the Senate State Affairs Committee that if it isn't broken, don't fix it.
"Why would we dismantle a law that has served Idaho for over 100 years?" he said.
Vraspir told the committee he is a longtime Idaho resident and identified himself as a conservative, but he couldn't come to grips with SB 1389, which he also said would make law enforcement more difficult.
"We shouldn't have a law because bad people will break them? That doesn't make sense to me," he said.
Idaho Freedom Foundation Vice President Fred Birnbaum painted a different picture of Idaho, where people living in rural areas carry their firearms across city limits, exposing themselves to possible arrest and prosecution.
"It's a distinction without a difference, in my view," Birnbaum said.
Others said the proposed legislation strengthens Second Amendment freedoms. Dakota Moore, a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, told the committee he was against permitting firearms altogether, as it delays people from exercising their right to bear arms.
"If I ever found myself in immanent danger, I would want to avail myself [of my Second Amendment rights]," he said.
- Harrison Berry
- Cay Marquart showing the committee a full-page ad taken out in The Idaho Statesman by Every Town for Gun Safety.
"The criminals will be criminals no matter what we do. A little card won't change anything," he said.
The bill goes further than lifting permit requirements for 21-year-olds—it also grants citizens over the age of 18 permitless carry outside city limits and those 18 to 21 can obtain permits to carry firearms within city limits at the discretion of the local sheriff.
For Boise Police Chief Bill Bones, the bill's age requirements are a barrier between sheriffs and their communities.
"I believe there are some sheriffs that are very well in touch with their community. This is going to take away some of the protections they've been able to have for their [communities'] children," he said.
According to a poll conducted by Every Town for Gun Safety, 75 percent of Idahoans support criminal background checks for all gun purchases and 81 percent support requiring permits to carry a concealed handgun in public. Referring to a full-page ad purchased by Every Town for Gun Safety and published in the Idaho Statesman, Cay Marquart said she felt the Idaho Legislature was ignoring the public by pursuing unpopular legislation.
"If they listen to us, why aren't they [abandoning legislation unsupported by the public]?" she said. "Is anybody paying attention here except the Democrats?"
Her sentiment was echoed by Shirley Van Zandt, of Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
"I don't think this bill represents the will of most Idahoans," she said.
At times the testimony became heated, as when Leslie Madsen-Brooks told the committee that members of ISAA had threatened her with death and sexual violence for her online comments opposing SB 1389.
- Harrison Berry
- Approximately 20 people demonstrated in favor of raising Idaho's minimum wage March 14 in the Idaho State Capitol.
Following public testimony, the bill was forwarded to the full Senate with a do-pass recommendation on a 6-3 vote.
As committee members and the public filed out of the Lincoln Auditorium, they were met by a group of about 20 demonstrators advocating for raising Idaho's minimum wage from the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.
The demonstration is pegged to HB 400, which would raise the minimum wage to $8.25 beginning July 1, 2016 and bind the Legislature to adjust it yearly in accordance with changes to the federal consumer price index. Lawmakers have yet to consider the bill.
Another wage bill, HB 463, sailed through the Legislature and now awaits the signature of Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. That bill goes in the opposite direction of HB 400, preempting cities and counties from setting their own minimum wage levels.
In a guest opinion, Idaho House Democrats, including House Minority Leader John Ruche (D-Lewiston), Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Mat Erpeldig (D-Boise) and Minority Caucus Chair Rep. Donna Pence (D-Gooding), took on the issue, saying in conjunction with improving access to affordable health care, raising the minimum wage would improve the lives of Idaho's working families.
"By tying growth in the minimum wage to inflation, taxpayers save money and the economy grows," they wrote.
McKenzie Perkins, a Boise State University senior and intern for United Vision for Idaho, said a low minimum wage disproportionately impacts women and minorities, and was shocked to learn the minimum wage would be much higher if it had been pegged to the CPI in the 1970s.
"I thought, 'What a difference that would make for the hardest workers trying to feed their families,'" she said.
Jim McAvoy, who recently moved to Boise from Seattle, said while the cost of living in his former home remains high, the city's recent decision to incrementally raise its minimum wage to $15 has made living their easier for many workers.
"They did it over there, and it didn't hurt them any," he said.