BOISE — After much debate, the Senate voted along party lines to pass a bill that would let 18- to 20-year-olds carry concealed firearms without a permit in cities across Idaho.
Both the House and Senate have passed the bill, so it’ll now head to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for a signature. If signed, it becomes law.
“What we’re talking about is extending to 18- to 20-year-olds the same fundamental and constitutional right to self-defense as all other adults have,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens.
The bill, Vick said, brings uniformity to Idaho’s gun laws to ensure they’re the same across the state, in both cities and counties.
Current law says that those 18 to 20 years old can carry a firearm without a permit anywhere in the state, including in city limits, so long as it’s not concealed. To carry concealed within Idaho cities, those under 21 need a permit, which includes a training requirement.
“Sometimes in life people are threatened, and they feel that their lives are in danger, and they want to carry a hand gun to defend themselves from that danger,” Vick said.
He added that with the current process, it could take months, if not more, to obtain a permit.
“During that time, as an Idaho resident, you are unable to legally carry a handgun concealed, and I don’t believe that is proper,” Vick said. “You can’t wait to carry to defend yourself because the threat is imminent.”
Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Boise, spoke in support of the bill, giving the Senate a hypothetical example of a young man who traveled through several city limits to get a gun range.
“I don’t think we want our law abiding citizens of any age to be faced with being charged with having a concealed weapon on them because they drove from one part of the county to the other,” Winder said.
The bill, HB 206, has received significant opposition from lawmakers and citizens who worry that without required training, young adults won’t have the proper knowledge on how to use a firearm.
“The big difficulty I have had with this bill all along is the lack of training,” said Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum. “It wasn’t much to ask for a little bit of training — I think my hairdresser has more training and licensing than people who are allowed to carry guns, and this is a problem.”
Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, who opposed the bill, shared a personal experience involving firearms.
“I have two friends who lost children to a firearm accident when they were at a party,” she said. “I have no assurances from this bill that this makes our children safer — maybe if we built in some training I could support this.”
Some of the debate centered around whether 18-year-olds were responsible enough to carry firearms.
“We’re not talking about children,” Vick said. “We’re talking about legal adults that have the rights of legal adults.”
Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, debated against the bill, arguing that each city is different, and gun responsibility might vary between counties.
”There is a difference between the rural environment and the urban environment, and the responsibility of people with guns in those two environments,” Burgoyne said. “This legislation does not take account of that.”
The bill doesn’t change any existing gun laws related to schools or any other place where weapons are prohibited, according to Vick. That includes courthouses and airports, among other locations.
All Democrat senators voted against the bill. Earlier this month, it passed on a party-line vote in the House, with only the 14 minority Democrats opposing it.