House Bill 301, which is before the Idaho Senate, was promoted as a rewrite of Idaho’s concealed weapon’s license law to make it more readable. However, some believe it is still cumbersome, and buried in its language is a major shift in policy regarding who is eligible for a concealed weapon license. Currently, 18-3302(1)(i) provides a disqualifier for anyone who “has had entry of a withheld judgment for a criminal offense which would disqualify him from obtaining a concealed weapon license.” This new bill, in contrast, at 18-3302(11)(m)(i) says expungement or a withheld judgment could not be held against a person.
Again, as the law stands today, a person adjudicated guilty of a felony crime and given a withheld judgment is not eligible for a concealed weapons license. The conviction is withheld by the judge because they completed probation satisfactorily. These are the people who in 2013 and 2014, according to Idaho Supreme Court data, committed more than 1600 felonies, including drug trafficking, aggravated assault, aggravated domestic battery, rape, sexual battery against children, strangulation, theft and numerous other crimes. If HB 301 becomes law it will allow these offenders to obtain a concealed weapons license, even though they admitted their guilt or were found guilty at trial.
Imagine how terrifying this will be to a domestic violence victim, knowing a perpetrator can carry a gun concealed if a withheld judgment is given. The crux of this issue is one of judgment. An offender who commits a felony and completes probation and is given a withheld judgment is making an attempt at rehabilitation. Does this process necessarily cure judgment issues? I doubt it.
Some offenders genuinely work on becoming a productive member of the community, and others, well, they just get lucky and get by. Bad judgment is what got them in trouble. Now, HB 301 will reward them with the ability to carry a concealed gun while they continue to experiment with their judgment.
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You may recall that not long ago an Idaho legislator resigned because he attempted to obtain a concealed weapons license, but it was discovered he had a withheld judgment on an assault charge in another state. Well, now, if this bill passes, he can get his license to carry.
Law enforcement is united in opposing this bill because it’s bad law. We are not shouting that blood will flow in the streets, as some of our detractors claim, but we are saying that giving a person who has demonstrated bad judgment by victimizing others the privilege to carry a concealed gun on their person is simply wrong.
House Bill 301 is a National Rifle Association (NRA) bill. The NRA is a respected organization that promotes gun ownership and safety, but it has lost its way on this bill. I never thought the NRA would carry the banner on behalf of offenders adjudicated guilty of felony crimes so that those offenders can carry a concealed firearm. Last week the House of Representatives voted to support the bill. Now it is up to the Senate. Hopefully, the senators will act and protect citizens by amending this poorly conceived bill.