Clark Corbin

(Idaho Capital Sun) The Republican supermajority in the Idaho Senate passed a bill Monday that repeals a state law banning groups of people from parading in public with firearms in any Idaho city or town.

Passing the bill would also remove Idaho’s prohibition on private militias, one Democratic senator who voted against the bill said.

But Sen. Dan Foreman, R-Moscow, said Senate Bill 1056 is necessary to support the freedoms expressed in the First Amendment and Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Freedom of assembly is a right that is not predicated on citizens’ agreement to refrain from carrying firearms,” said Foreman, the bill’s sponsor. “And the constitutional right to freedom of assembly applies to all citizens, regardless of with whom they may affiliate, the purpose of the affiliation or the title or name under which that affiliation exists.”

Idaho law already allows for the concealed carry and open carry of firearms.

If passed into law, Senate Bill 1056 does two things.

  • It would repeal section 46-802 from state law. That’s the section that says no groups “shall associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or parade in public with firearms in any city or town of this state.”
  • It would replace the repealed section of law with a new law prohibiting Idaho cities and towns from raising money to arm, equip or support any military organization other than the organized National Guard.

In his floor debate Monday, Sen. James Ruchti, D-Pocatello, evoked the 1999 parade led through Coeur d’Alene by white supremacists and Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler. The parade turned violent, and was covered at the time by the Spokesman-Review.

“This bill allows private militias, Aryan nations, white supremacists, (or) Patriot Front to show up in your communities,” Ruchti said on the Senate floor. “They have the right to do it under this bill because we have taken away the prohibition against it.”

Sen. Ali Rabe, a Boise Democrat who is pregnant, said passing the bill makes Idaho less safe. Rabe told senators that she wants to be able to bring her child to safely enjoy parades.

“I will not feel that safety should this pass because any armed group could participate in those parades, putting our children in danger,” Rabe said. “This is a real threat.”

Rabe said the word “parade” is so vague that passage of the bill could also lead to armed groups parading in front of libraries, school board meetings, hospitals or elected officials’ homes with firearms.

Several Republicans who supported the bill said the state shouldn’t write laws based on fear of what might happen if the law passes.

“In this state, we prosecute people for violations of the law, not for what they might do not for what we think their intentions might be,” Foreman said. ”This is the United States. We have a constitution. This is Idaho.”

Other Republicans agreed, saying the bill is about freedom.

“I‘d like to point out that this country was built on the fact of our militias and that this country takes great pride in the freedoms that citizens have and (those) opportunities,” Sen. Chris Trakel, R-Caldwell, said in his debate in favor of the bill.

“All this law does is open it up to deregulation from the government — allows individuals to carry in a parade,” Trakel added.” That’s it. That’s what this country was founded upon.”

After a 20-minute debate, the Idaho Senate voted 24-9 to pass the bill, with all seven Senate Democrats voting against it.

Having passed the Idaho Senate, Senate Bill 1056 heads next to the Idaho House of Representatives for consideration. Last year, the Idaho House comfortably passed a similar bill, House Bill 475, by a vote of 57-13. Last year’s bill passed the Idaho House but was never advanced in the Idaho Senate.

If the Idaho House passes this year’s bill, Senate Bill 1056, it would go to Gov. Brad Little for final consideration. Once a bill reaches Little’s desk, he may sign it into law, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it.