Domestic violence conviction could prevent gun ownership

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BOISE — A bill to make owning a gun illegal for individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence passed an Idaho House panel March 1.

“We’re just casting a little wider net to get the most dangerous people who are not responsible,” said bill sponsor Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise.

Under federal law, someone convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence is already prohibited from possessing a firearm. However, only federal — not state — law enforcement officials can enforce that law, said Mike Kane, a lobbyist for the Idaho Sherriff’s Association. Wintrow’s bill would prohibit convicted domestic violence abusers from owning a gun for two years under state law.

“The idea here is to give the state officers the tools to enforce in a situation where they find themselves in contact with a person who has been convicted of domestic violence,” Kane said. “We’re saying, ‘you can’t do that as a matter of state law.’”

Lawyers, members of law enforcement and survivors of domestic violence testified in favor of the bill.

After over an hour of testimony and questions, Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls, made a motion to send the bill to General Orders for amendments, which would essentially have killed it. Other committee members also voiced concerns about the bill.

“I worry about that false sense of security, because if a person is going to commit a crime, they don’t care what the law is,” said Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett. “They don’t care whether they’re on probation, they don’t care whether their rights are taken away.”

Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, said he viewed the bill as a “prevention bill.”

“We’re preventing a person from doing something bad, preventing another incident,” he said. “And there’s a basis to do that because the person has already been guilty of a crime.”

Ehardt’s motion failed 5-10, and the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee then voted to send the bill to the floor with no verbal dissent.

Nina Rydalch covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

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