In one of the most Second Amendment-friendly legislatures in America, the pressure to respond to the Connecticut school massacre and President Barack Obamas gun control ideas has prompted a flurry of behind-the-scenes action.
Compounding the interest is the largest freshman class in Idaho history a group eager to address constituent concerns.
To manage the flow of legislation, House Speaker Scott Bedke has informally assigned a point person, Republican Rep. Judy Boyle of Midvale, a former volunteer lobbyist for the NRA who helped pass Idahos conceal-carry law in 1990.
I dont want a bunch of redundant bills, Bedke said Thursday. I want the common themes consolidated into individual bills. Put the ideas in the arena, lets do the research and lets have the debate.
Sen. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, who authored a failed 2011 bill to allow guns on college campuses, is leading a similar effort in the Senate and working with Gov. Butch Otters chief of staff, David Hensley.
Hagedorn said hes exploring two legislative avenues: school safety and protection of gun rights. Do we have holes we need to fix, along with what were doing for the schools? he said.
Boyle said shes received about 150 emails and uncounted phone calls and text messages urging her to act immediately. Meanwhile, she said, talk radio is ablaze with callers saying, Whats the Legislature doing? Theyre doing nothing!
I think were all getting the same kind of emails of panic, Boyle said Thursday. Theyre scared, really scared, about losing their guns, or their right to purchase a gun or ammunition, or any component to make their ammunition.
Boyle said she hopes to gather the proposals into several bills in about two weeks, and urges both lawmakers and constituents to be patient.
Mostly its the freshmen, worried because their constituents are and they dont know what to say to them and they want to react quick, Boyle said. The people who are worried are students of history they have seen what Hitler did, what has happened in countries that disarm people.
But Boyle called for a measured approach that will pass court tests and truly protect not just children but all citizens from crazy people.
Bedke and Hagedorn said they prefer the word concerned rather than panic to describe public sentiment.
But if you look around enough, Im sure you can find panic, said Bedke, R-Oakley. Im certainly concerned.
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, didnt designate Hagedorn as a Senate gatekeeper but said hes pleased Hagedorn is leading on the issue. There are very few people Id feel more comfortable with, he said.
Hagedorn said he wont revive his guns-on-campus bill because it was strongly opposed by university presidents and would be a distraction.
But Hagedorn said its time to revisit the states ban on guns in schools and courthouses. One of the things we need to consider is if a person today has a right to protect themselves and carry a gun, when they go into a gun-free zone is there a liability on the state to then take over that protection?
Boyle said shes consulting police officials and has determined that arming school employees and providing advanced training for violent emergencies is a top priority.
Its one thing to carry a gun and its another when you have some crazy person coming at you. Police are trained on that, so thats why theyve been helping us, she said.
Idahos 115 school districts would be able to decide whether to arm employees, but the legal incentive to do so would be high, Boyle said.
Theyre going to have to take responsibility. If theyre not going to accept protection for those students, theyre going to have to accept the liability that they havent done that, she said.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438