Idaho would become the latest state to prevent convicted domestic abusers from owning guns under a proposal headed to the House floor.
The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee, a Republican-dominant panel, on March 1 spent several hours debating the Democratic-backed measure before agreeing to send HB 585 to the House floor. The measure passed on a voice vote despite extensive questioning from the committee and one failed attempt to send the proposal to be amended — which would have effectively killed it for the year.
“We’re just casting a little wider net to make sure we capture the most dangerous folks out there,” said Democratic Rep. Melissa Wintrow, the bill’s sponsor.
Women are five times more likely to be killed if a gun is present in a domestic violence situation, Wintrow added while defending her bill against skeptical Republican colleagues wary of limiting gun rights.
Domestic violence survivors who testified in front of the panel showed photos of their children who had been threatened with guns, while advocates and law enforcement officials urged the bill’s passage in order to better protect their communities.
If approved, the bill would make it a misdemeanor for people convicted of domestic violence to possess a firearm within two years of that assault. It does not instruct convicted domestic abusers to turn in the guns they already own, meaning it would require abusers to follow the honor system if the measure becomes law.
Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia have already passed similar legislation.
Currently, federal law already bans anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony domestic violence charge from possessing a firearm. However, while the law applies to all 50 states, the federal statute is contingent on a matching state law in order for local officials and judges to enforce the ban.
Idaho does not yet have any matching state law — a loophole Wintrow’s bill seeks to close.
“I still have questions about this. I know we have examples of those who have been legitimately hurt, but I think there are other examples of the misuses of this, of people getting their gun rights taken away,” said Rep. Karey Hanks, a Republican from St. Anthony.
In Republican-dominant Idaho, efforts to increase any hint of gun control are often blocked by GOP legislative leaders. It’s also unclear if Wintrow’s bill will clear the House floor in a 70-member body with just 11 Democratic members, particularly in a year where every state lawmaker is up for re-election in the upcoming May primary election.
Other gun related bills floating inside the Statehouse this year include allowing retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed guns at schools, while a separate measure encourages Idaho schools to offer gun-safety courses for students at primary and secondary schools. Lawmakers are also considering strengthening Idaho’s “stand your ground” laws.