Maj. Steve Stokes

Maj. Steve Stokes of the Idaho Military Division presents HB 475, on private militias, to the House Transportation and Defense Committee on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

The House Transportation & Defense Committee this afternoon voted 13-4 in favor of sending HB 475, legislation proposed by Idaho’s Military Division to repeal a 1927 law outlawing private militias, to the full House without recommendation. The vote followed extensive testimony against the bill, including from North Idaho residents who told of their experiences in the past two years with private armed groups taking over their local streets in Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint.

Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad told the committee that Sandpoint experienced this a couple of years ago when a planned human rights march by local high school students sparked unfounded rumors of an antifa rally. “A large group of heavily armed people started patrolling our little town, and many people in the community felt harassed and intimidated,” he said. “This was a dangerous moment for our town. Our police force was concerned that they would be quickly overwhelmed if the situation escalated to violence.” He called the law proposed for repeal “one of the few statutes that is useful in protecting public safety from private, unregulated militias.”

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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