Their Own Private Idaho
Idaho is a marvelous state in the Northwest US, large and nearly empty except for its famous spuds and its less famous gemstones, ergo Idaho’s nickname “The Gem State,” which I’m sure we’ll all agree is a far sexier nickname than “The Potato State.” All of New England could fit comfortably in Idaho’s footprint but the population is only 1.5 million souls, 89.1% of which are Caucasian and 23% of which are Mormons (about which we know considerably more than we used to).
Idaho is a great place to be all kinds of maverick-y and left alone by the pesky rest of civilization—the state motto is Esto Perpetua—Latin for “Let it be forever”—and it’s a terrific place to be trigger-happy. The Brady Campaign which rates the 50 US states, on a scale of 0 -100, for their legislative efforts to prevent gun violence, puts Idaho at a 2, along with Kentucky, Louisiana and Montana. The only states that have less gun control are Alaska, Arizona and Utah at zero.
For the sake of comparison, California comes in at a tyrannical 80, and New Jersey scored 72.
The state of Idaho does not require a permit or registration to purchase a gun, own a gun, or to carry a gun in the open. Residents who wish to conceal their guns must obtain a permit. Idaho has no restrictions on “assault weapons” or on NFAs (National Firearms Act listed weapons, sometimes referred to as “gangster guns”—machine guns, sawed off shotguns and the like.)
In 2008, the Idaho state legislature even lifted the ban on bringing weapons into the State House. The list of State House “Don’ts” posted at the door advise men to remove their hats, no food and drinks are permitted and bags are searched by security (for contraband food and drinks, I imagine) but guns, of all sorts, are A-OK.
That’s what makes the following story about the Idaho State legislators’ so hilarious.
At the end of January, a man, clearly toting a large-ish sidearm, strolled around the Idaho State House floor seeing what little there was to see, since the House was not in session. This occurred during regular posted public access hours, as a matter of fact, concurrent with the man’s self-guided tour, Rep. James Holtzclaw (R-Meridian) happened to be leading a troop of Cub Scouts through to gaze upon the majesty of “The People’s House,” where public servants, like himself, safeguard every Idahoan’s right to go anywhere they want with any gun they want. Impressive, no?
However, when Capitol security brought the surveillance tapes to the attention of House and Senate leadership, they proceeded to have a little NIMSH (Not in my State House) freak-out and have since severely curtailed public access to the Capitol until they figure out how to keep legal guns out.
Here are some of the Idaho State leadership’s hysterically hypocritical over-reactions:
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley: “Events like that should disturb all Idahoans. It certainly disturbed me.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill: “To think that somebody is bold enough to have followed these children around with a sidearm in plain sight — who is also bold enough to go through trash cans, take pictures of representatives’ desks and shuffle their papers — all of that created a great deal of concern.”
Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, (R-Idaho Falls): “We’re a security planner’s nightmare. He lamented the unidentified man’s “poor judgment that makes policymakers wonder if you have to have a rule. He is an aberration.”
Aren’t you all Republicans, the party safeguarding Americans’ sacred rights to guns? Aren’t you the folks hosting The Citadel? Aren’t you the ones who tell us that more guns make us more safe? Shouldn’t those Cub Scouts have felt safe and sound with an armed man floating around in the background?
Bottom line, fellas, according to Idaho state law, this man did nothing illegal. The Idaho State Police quickly confirmed that.
The man, himself, made a public apology when he realized how much of a kerfuffle he’d raised, telling a local radio host:
For me it broke my heart that I caused our legislators to have the concern that they did. Because that was not at all, it was the furthest thing from my mind that something like that would have occurred.
And right you are, armed man who prefers to remain anonymous.
But, but, but . . . Senate President Pro Tem Hill also had this to say:
What happens when six people come and sit in the front row of the gallery with shotguns across their laps? I sure as heck am not going to leave my senators in there with that.
I guess Sen. Hill wasn’t thinking of a situation like this when he was busy voting this way:
I’m sure he’ll be voting differently now, right? Now that he’s afraid of unknown men with guns? Join the freaking club, Senator!
As long as we’re talking about Idaho, might as well throw this howler in, as well:
Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.
BECAUSE (are you ready?):
When I read Atlas Shrugged, and it’s been probably 30 years since I read it, but it certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility.
¡Ay, caramba! GOP . . .