House to hear ‘stand your ground’ bill

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BOISE — A bill to add “stand your ground” principles to law is headed to the House floor.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 12-3 to advance SB 1313 to the House floor Thursday. The bill was approved by the Senate last Friday, and if it clears the House, it heads to Gov. Butch Otter.

The bill from Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, is one of two stand your ground bills the statehouse is considering this session. The second is a bill by Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, who serves on the committee that heard Lakey’s SB 1313. Zito’s bill, HB 444, was introduced in late January but has not yet received a public hearing.

SB 1313 would make it so people in their homes, workplaces, businesses or vehicles could use deadly force to defend themselves when anyone enters without permission by either stealth or force. It includes a presumption that anybody who uses stealth or force to illegally enter any of those premises “is doing so with the intent to commit a felony.”

The bill states that people don’t have to retreat or wait until a threat is ‘apparent,’ under like under current Idaho statute. But many legislators and the American Bar Association say Idaho already has ‘stand your ground’ principles from years of case law and jury instructions, essentially meaning these Castle doctrine principles are already in use.

Lakey believes his bill helps to clarify what’s already in code. “I think this puts existing principles in law so that the citizens of Idaho can understand it and that there’s a place they can go to understand those rights,” he said.

Groups such as the ACLU of Idaho and Moms Demand Action believe ‘stand your ground’ laws increase violence unnecessarily.

“This bill creates problems for families in Idaho by creating a hazardous environment for innocent bystanders because it encourages recklessness in people who are already willing to engage in and escalate confrontations,” said Jennifer Laforge, a representative for Moms Demand Action.

Lakey’s bill has the support of numerous gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association and the Idaho State Rifle and Pistol Association. The Idaho Sheriff’s Association also supports his bill.

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance felt it doesn’t go far enough.

“SB 1313 contains a very limited presumption of innocence…. this isn’t about gun rights, this is about the right to defend yourself with deadly force” said Seth Rosquist, chairman of the gun-rights group’s board. “We want the plain assumption that somebody defended themselves reasonably.”

“Our rights are under constant attack and Idaho is slowly becoming the next Washington or Oregon,” he said.

24 states have ‘stand your ground laws’ on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Spokesman-Review reported two weeks ago the House State Affairs Committee intends to hear allow both Lakey’s and Zito’s bills to compete, with Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher stating he wanted to hear both proposals simultaneously.

After Thursday’s vote to send the Senate bill to the floor, Loertscher said the House bill does not yet have a scheduled public hearing.

Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

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