Yesterday afternoon the Idaho House Transportation and Defense Committee heard HB 475, which would encourage armed intimidation and the open carrying of firearms in Idaho by allowing individuals to form a militia and openly parade in public with firearms. At the hearing several community members, including Nicole Brown, a volunteer with the Idaho chapter of Moms Demand Action, shared stories of armed intimidation and far-right mobilization in the state that would go unchecked if the bill were to advance.
“Our legislature has gone too far with their attempt to legalize militias,” said Jacqui Hamilton, a volunteer leader with the Idaho chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Gun violence is already devastating our communities. Now lawmakers want to add legal, armed militias to the state. There’s a reason no other state is pushing this type of legislation – it’s dangerous. At a time when violent incidents of extremism with firearms are at an all time high, lawmakers should be looking to strengthen rather than weaken our gun safety laws.”
Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, noted that there is more information needed about the bill before moving to table the bill for the session. Despite overwhelming testimony against the bill and wavering members on the committee, lawmakers moved to recommend the bill to the House floor – without recommendation.
Idaho already allows residents to openly carry both handguns and rifles freely in public without any requirement of a permit. This bill goes even further to encourage the formation of militias and openly encourages armed intimidation. This notion is even more worrisome as Idaho swiftly approaches midterm elections.
Open carry is a dangerous policy that is exploited by white supremacists and opposed by law enforcement and the public. Research shows that open carry makes us less safe: visible guns have been found to make people more aggressive; therefore open carry makes it more likely that disagreements will turn into violent conflicts. In fact, firearms at any demonstration increases the likelihood that such an event will escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation.
Idaho has some of the weakest gun laws in the country, scoring 5 out of 100, and has the fourth-highest rates of gun suicides and household firearm ownership. Every year, over 280 people die by guns in the state, and gun violence continues to devastate Idaho communities. In 2021, Idaho saw an uptick in police violence, a school shooting at Rigby Middle School and a deadly mass shooting at Towne Square Mall – all of which could be addressed by gun safety legislation. More information on gun violence in Idaho is available here.