Legislation prompted by Idaho’s low ranking on a 2013 gun rights survey was introduced in the House State Affairs Committee on Monday.
The “castle doctrine” or Stand Your Ground bill expands legal protections for property owners who shoot someone who breaks into their home, car or business.
Alexandria Kincaid, an attorney representing the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, told the committee that interest in this legislation began in 2013.
“The whole issue arose when a national magazine, ‘Guns and Ammo,’ did a survey,” she said. “Idaho was ranked 32nd in the country for gun rights. This was a shock and surprise for many citizens. They called on the Second Amendment Alliance to explain why.”
Upon investigation, Kincaid said, Idaho’s low score stemmed primarily from its “outdated” justifiable homicide statute and the absence of “stand your ground” language that prohibits prosecutors from presenting evidence that the shooter could have run away.
After reviewing what other states have done, she said, the alliance helped craft a bill to address several key gaps in Idaho law.
First, the measure clarifies that any homeowner who shoots an intruder is presumed to be justified in their use of force, as long as the “intruder” isn’t a law enforcement officer or someone who has a legal right to enter the home or business.
“We want the starting point in any criminal investigation (into the use of deadly force) to be that the person who wasn’t breaking the law ... was in fact justified,” Kincaid said. “If someone’s in your home and you haven’t invited them there, you can make a quick decision. You don’t need to announce yourself, you don’t need to figure if they intend to cause you harm. You can use defensive force - and if you do, the laws of Idaho will be on your side, not the side of the person who may have been injured.”
If charges do get brought against the homeowner, she said, this bill would prohibit the prosecutor from presenting evidence showing that they could have turned and run away.
“While Idaho says you don’t have a duty to retreat, the evidence that you could have still gets put before juries, to say that what you did wasn’t reasonable,” Kincaid said. “So now we’re second-guessing your split-second decision-making. So we incorporated stand-your-ground provisions and a provision to say that the jury or judge doesn’t get to consider whether you could have turned and run. That’s not admissible evidence in a trial.”
During her testimony, Kincaid only cited once case dealing with stand-your-ground laws. That was in Florida, where George Zimmerman was charged and subsequently acquitted for the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Rep. Jason Monks, R-Nampa, said he’d rather hear more about why this legislation is needed in Idaho.
“I’d like to see examples where we had problems with the existing statutes in Idaho, where it affected Idaho citizens,” he said. “That’s a good reason to change laws — as opposed to there being a ranking in a magazine where we didn’t do too well. That doesn’t seem to me like a really good reason why we should do this.”
Although other committee members had several technical questions about the bill, Rep. Elaine Smith, D-Pocatello, was the only one to vote against introducing it.
Reps. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer and a candidate for governor, and Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, both sided with the majority in voting to introduce the bill. A hearing will now be scheduled to take public comment.