Guest Opinions

Stand Your Ground law means more gun violence for Idaho

Provided by Idaho Moms for Advocacy

When Gov. Butch Otter allowed Stand Your Ground legislation to become law, Idaho became less safe for the families who are proud to call this state home.

Gov. Otter acknowledged as much in a letter to Lt. Gov. Brad Little, saying, “Among my biggest concerns are the potential unintended consequences on our children.” Gov. Otter even gave examples of the deadly effects this law could have, saying that a juvenile who broke into an RV to steal a soda could be legally shot by the RV’s owner, or a rural teenager who sneaks into a cornfield in the middle of the night could be legally killed, “simply because the teenagers used stealth to sneak onto the property and are unlawfully trespassing.”

If Gov. Otter has such grave concerns with this bill, why would he not do all he could to protect Idahoans from unnecessary violence by vetoing the bill? We deserve better than this from our elected leaders, and we’re not going to back down.

Make no mistake: I come from a family of proud and responsible gun owners. I support the Second Amendment. I’m also a mom of two great kids. I love this state, and I feel blessed to have the chance to raise my family here in Idaho.

I spent time working as a medical social worker in an emergency room, providing counseling to families who lost loved ones to gun violence, and I’ve seen firsthand the trauma that stems from these preventable deaths.

As a mom and citizen of our great state, I believe I have a responsibility to keep my children and fellow Idahoans safe from preventable gun violence. I believe our governor and state legislators have that responsibility, too.

But SB 1313 won’t keep Idahoans safe from dangerous people – it will only put our communities at greater risk. Our state law already recognizes the right to self-defense, and includes important safeguards to prevent someone from using deadly force if they initiate a fight or from tracking down and shooting someone out of revenge. The bill that Gov. Otter let become Idaho’s new law jeopardizes those standards – and Otter himself recognizes just how dangerous that is.

This may all seem like a technicality, but these changes could have life-or-death consequences for Idaho families. Bar fights might now escalate to deadly shootings. When my kids are teenagers, a fender-bender could quickly escalate from confrontation to tragedy.

This “shoot first, ask questions later” approach has already cost countless lives across America. Research shows that states that passed Stand Your Ground laws saw increases in homicide rates, resulting in an additional 600 homicides per year. In Florida, the Tampa Bay Times found that at least 26 children and teens were killed in Stand Your Ground cases between 2005 and 2013. Another study in Florida showed that Stand Your Ground laws have disproportionate effects on communities of color. This study found that when controlling for other factors – such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed – Florida Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to a conviction, compared to cases with white victims.

All of this goes to say that SB 1313 is an unnecessary law with the potential for deadly, unintended consequences that even the governor himself acknowledged.

For moms like me, too much is at stake to sit by while policymakers refuse to take action. Hoping for the best won’t keep our kids safe in their schools or in their community.

That’s why I joined with other moms working for change in Idaho and in states across the country. That’s why moms support Idaho students standing up and walking out to demand real action from our state and federal legislators. We’re joining together in unprecedented numbers in our communities, at the state Capitol and on social media.

We’re tired of hearing that nothing can be done. We’re tired of lawmakers refusing to stand up to the radical gun lobby and passing legislation that they admit will have deadly repercussions across our state. Now lawmakers have a choice: Take real action or face real consequences on Election Day.

Elana Story is a Boise resident and the Idaho chapter leader with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.