Guest Opinions

Idaho needs an upgraded Castle Doctrine for gun owners

Greg Pruett
Greg Pruett

Idaho is one of the most gun-friendly states in the country. Compared to our neighbors in Oregon and Washington, who continue to erode gun rights, Idaho is on a far better path to protecting the Second Amendment. Proof of this can be seen with the passage of permitless carry earlier this year.

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance spearheaded that effort the last four years and many have asked us what we are going to work on next. Does Idaho have any more places to strengthen gun laws?

The answer is most assuredly, yes.

One area that has long been weak in Idaho is our so called, “Castle Doctrine.” Several years ago my good friend and alliance attorney, Alexandria Kincaid, explained to me the flaws that existed in Idaho’s current Castle Doctrine.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Castle Doctrine essentially says that when a person illegally breaks into your home, you have the right to defend yourself and your family. Well isn’t that the law in Idaho? It’s not, necessarily.

In fact, in Idaho you have to prove, as the victim, that you acted appropriately. You have to prove that you felt your life, or the life of your loved ones, was in jeopardy. Or you have to prove the perpetrator was in the act of committing a felony. The bottom line is the burden of proof is really on the homeowner, the victim in this case, to prove that they needed to defend their life.

Does that sound right to you?

Other states, such as Texas and Florida, say that when someone breaks into your home illegally, you have the right to kill that intruder. It is on the criminal to prove that you acted maliciously. The presumption of innocence is moved to the victim. That means that you are presumed innocent and have acted appropriately. It would be on the criminal to prove that he wasn’t an intruder.

We also want to make sure Idahoans who do act in self-defense in their homes are protected against lawsuits from the criminal or their family members. We want to give victims civil immunity.

The bottom line is that the victim in a home invasion shouldn’t have to determine whether or not they can defend their own life. These are split second decisions and trying to remember if you can defend yourself in your own home is absurd. You should have the right to assume that someone breaking in is intending to do you harm.

There are going to be variables that exist in a Castle Doctrine that protect people like mail delivery personnel, missionaries and others who are not criminals but doing a job or other legal activity.

In 2017, the ISAA will continue our efforts to strengthen gun laws in Idaho and more specifically we will help home owners feel more secure in their homes by pushing for an upgraded Castle Doctrine.

Greg Pruett lives in Middleton and is president of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance.