Bill removing ban on groups marching in public with guns heads to Idaho House of Representatives

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A bill that would repeal a section of state law prohibiting private groups from “parading in public with firearms in any city or town in this state” is being introduced in the House of Commons floor. representatives from Idaho.

On Wednesday, the Idaho Legislature’s Transportation and Defense Committee voted to send House Bill 475 upstairs in the house without any recommendation.

The Idaho Military Division/Idaho National Guard introduced House Bill 475 after working with Governor Brad Little.

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Members of the House Transportation and Defense Committee voted to move the bill forward after Idahoans testified at the bill’s public hearing that they feared the bill would law legalizes private militias that would intimidate families or provoke violence.

If passed, House Bill 475 would repeal section of existing law which states, in part:No body of men, other than the regularly organized National Guard, the unorganized militia when called into service of the State or of the United States, and except such as are regularly recognized and provided for by the laws of the State of Idaho and the United States, will associate as a military company or organization, or parade in public with firearms in any city or town in this State.

This article of law dates from 1927.

Maj. Steve Stokes, general counsel for the Idaho Military Division, told lawmakers that Idaho Military Division officials identified the section of law to be repealed while working to implement the Little’s Red Tape Reduction Act. Little first issued the Red Tape Reduction Act as an executive order to reduce regulation and bureaucracy in 2019.

Stokes said the law applies to civilians and does not apply to Idaho Military Division operations, which include establishing military readiness within the Idaho National Guard, or planning and providing emergency or disaster relief services in Idaho.

“Therefore, the statue is not needed because it is not required for the administration of the Idaho Military Division,” Stokes said.

Idaho residents who testified after Stokes said the bill was necessary because it provides protection against unregulated militias marching through the city with guns.

Little, who is expected to announce his gubernatorial re-election campaign in the coming weeks the following months of fundraising for the campaignhas held press conferences for the past two years claiming Idaho is the least regulated state in the county.

Idaho law already allows the open carrying of firearms.

Idaho residents who testified objected to removal of gun parade ban

At Wednesday’s public hearing on the bill, all who testified were against removing the ban on private groups marching through the streets with guns.

Several Idaho residents testified that in 2020, armed groups marched through Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint following the 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Coeur d’Alene resident Shawn Keenan told lawmakers that following protests over Floyd’s death, hundreds of armed men and women marched through the city with long guns to intimidate people.

Keenan called it a week-long occupation and likened the experience to being on a movie set.

“We were terrified, let’s be honest,” Keenan said. “Many people have been unable to come downtown to dine at their favorite establishment or even enjoy our parks for fear of a discharge from one of these weapons for whatever reason, accidental or through a perceived threat .”

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad – who is running for governor this year as a Democrat – told lawmakers armed mobs marching through Sandpoint created a public safety risk and left local police officers fearful of being overwhelmed if the groups turned violent.

Rognstad said passage of the bill repealing the law would send a message encouraging unregulated armed mobs.

“This is a dangerous bill; he invites private militias who have no accountability to the civil authorities, they answer to no one”, Rognstad noted.

Rognstad said armed mobs showed up at Sandpoint two summers ago after a rumor circulated on social media that a high school human rights march was actually an ANTIFA gang planning to attack Sandpoint.

“A large group of heavily armed people started patrolling our small town, and many community members felt harassed and intimidated,” Rognstad said. noted.

“Our state’s anti-paramilitary law is one of the few laws that is helpful in protecting public safety from unregulated private militias,” Rognstad added.

Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, unsuccessfully tried to bring the bill to committee, saying he needed more time and information before voting on the change.

In the end, Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, successfully moved the motion to send the bill to the House floor without a recommendation. DeMordaunt did not address the substance of the bill.

Syme was the only Republican on the committee to vote against moving the bill forward. He joined the committee’s three Democrats, Reps. John Gannon, Ilana Rubel, both D-Boise, and John McCrostie, D-Garden City, in voting against.

If the Idaho House passes House Bill 475, the bill would be sent to the Idaho Senate.

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