Lawmaker wants to strengthen gun rights if feds move to limit firearms

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Fearful that President Barack Obama will move aggressively to limit firearms, a Republican lawmaker said Thursday at least two bills meant to bolster gun rights will begin their journey through the Idaho Legislature starting early next week.

Rep. Judy Boyle, of Midvale, said one measure, slated for introduction in the House State Affairs Committee Monday, will strengthen state law enforcement agencies' ability to resist any federal attempts to confiscate weapons or ammunition declared illegal under federal law.

"If the feds come into the state and say, 'You have to help us round up guns,' this gives our state sheriffs and local law enforcement protection under state law," she said, adding that federal agents would work without state help if they wanted to confiscate guns.

A separate bill would create a new category of concealed weapons permit that requires more training, including live-fire instruction. Not only would it allow Idaho concealed weapons permits to be recognized in more states, such an "enhanced permit" could persuade more school boards to allow people to carry concealed weapons on their campuses, which she said her hometown school board already has.

"We want to protect the kids. This all goes back to the schools," Boyle said.

There are other bills under discussion but not slated for Monday's hearing, either because they aren't finished or consensus hasn't been reached, said Boyle, a rancher.

One would declare federal commerce laws inapplicable to guns and ammunition that are manufactured in Idaho and remain within the state's borders. Idaho, with a staunch tradition of hunting and shooting sports, has numerous weapon and ammunition makers.

The other would strongly encourage school districts to allow teachers and other employees to be armed - or else face legal liabilities for creating gun-free zones, should a tragedy occur.

"I think they're liable now," Boyle said, while conceding she's "not sure if that's going to get consensus this year."

The holdup is that some GOP caucus members would prefer not to tackle the issue at all, while others want to move aggressively to make sure teachers have the firepower to stop an intruder like the one who killed 26 people in Newtown, Conn., she said.

Obama has urged Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons. He also issued 23 executive orders on gun safety.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, encourages proponents of firearms-related legislation to come forward with proposals quickly, so lawmakers have a chance to adequately vet them.

"It's time to start moving bills," Bedke said.

The session's about half over and the first gun bill got a relatively inauspicious introduction Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee, largely because few knew the measure had to do with firearms until its sponsor described it.

Rep. Terry Gestrin, R-Donnelly, wants to strike a 1967 law that gave cities the power to regulate, prevent and punish people for carrying a concealed weapon, which conflicts with a separate law passed in 2008 forbidding counties and cities from regulating firearms.

Though Gestrin described his bill as a "housekeeping measure" meant to remove competing laws, he also sees it as a symbolic first salvo in Idaho's fight to control its firearms destiny.

"It lets the people of my district know we're working on it, to protect their gun rights," he said.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter said Thursday he hadn't seen Boyle's legislation but has encouraged lawmakers to step up their vigilance. Anytime Washington takes aim on the Second Amendment, Otter said, "it really perks up my ears and my interest."