BOISE — Idahoans will take part in a nationwide movement Sunday calling for lawmakers to pass gun safety legislation.

The effort, by Moms Demand Action Against Gun Violence, comes as the nation is still reeling from back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, earlier this month.

Rallies are planned in all 50 states Sunday to call on House Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hear a bill on universal background checks for guns sales. Boise’s rally starts at 3 p.m. at Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 6200 N. Garrett St.

Local rallygoers hope to send a message to U.S. Sens. Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, both Republicans from Idaho, that universal background checks are an Idaho value.

“It supports safe and connected communities,” said Jennifer Lingle, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action’s Idaho chapter. “This is no longer a partisan issue.”

In February, the U.S. House of Representatives passed HR8, which would require universal background checks on every gun purchase, with the exemption of family transfers. The U.S Senate has yet to bring the bill up this year.

In Idaho, a background check is performed on the purchase of a gun at a dealership, but not during private sales, such as through Craigslist, a garage sale or a gun show.

“This legislation would close that loophole and require background checks,” Lingle said.

Though Idaho in modern history hasn’t experienced a mass shooting — typically defined as having four or more victims — it’s still the subject of other gun violence, like domestic homicides. The state experienced 17 intimate partner murder-suicide deaths from January to November of 2018 alone.

“When I’m working with victims and survivors of domestic violence and (offenders are) denied a weapon, but they could get it through a private source — not good, right?” Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, told the Idaho Press.

Lingle acknowledged that gun violence is a multi-faceted problem, and no one fix will solve everything. The shooter in El Paso, for example, didn’t have a significant criminal history and passed a background check, and the Daytona shooter had juvenile charges that were expunged from his record, TIME reports.

“The so-called ‘universal’ background check bill passed by the House would not have prevented the criminal acts in El Paso or Dayton,” NRA Institute for Legislative Action spokesman Lars Dalseide told the Idaho Press in a statement Friday. “Instead of looking for effective solutions that address the root cause of violent crime and can save lives, anti-gun politicians would rather focus on scoring political points by pushing legislation that only restricts the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

Still, the majority of Americans support background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows.

“I can’t imagine any reasonable person being opposed to that,” Wintrow said. “I think we need to open up the conversation much larger, and we can’t be afraid to talk about it.”

Background checks are “the backbone of any gun violence prevention,” Lingle said. “It’s where we have to start.”

Wintrow said a lot more needs to be done, but agrees this is a good place to start.

“I just think there are many irrational fears behind this issue,” she said. “We really have to get in a place that we can have meaningful discussions.”

The gun legislation debate has also inspired rallies from Idahoans in support of the right to bear arms. Last September, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance hosted one such rally on the steps of the Idaho Capitol. Efforts to reach the group for this story were unsuccessful.


{p dir=”ltr”}Idaho gun laws rank as some of the least restrictive in the country.

{p dir=”ltr”}The notion of Idaho as a gun-adoring state is nothing new, but there are numbers and research to back up the claim. Take, for instance, an April study from the personal finance website WalletHub ranking Idaho as the state most dependent on the gun industry in the country. According to the study, which was conducted by five researchers from multiple universities and one advocacy group, Idaho has the third-highest rate of gun ownership in the country, after Arkansas and Alaska. It’s tied for first place with New Hampshire and Montana for having the most firearms-industry jobs per capita, and it’s also tied with New Hampshire for having the highest rate of firearms output per capita.

{p dir=”ltr”}In 2018, the magazine Guns & Ammo ranked Idaho as the second-best state for gun owners, behind only Alaska. Idaho had previously been listed as No. 19 on that list, but when that changed after the Legislature passed “stand your ground” legislation, which clarified gun owners had no duty to retreat from a dangerous situation if they were exercising self-defense or acting in defense of others.

{p dir=”ltr”}Conversely, the “stand your ground” law landed Idaho high on another list, this one compiled by the Giffords Law Center to Protect Gun Violence, which advocates for gun control. The center gave Idaho an “F” grade in terms of gun control laws — specifically citing the stand-your-ground law.

{p dir=”ltr”}Idaho has the 15th highest gun death rate in the country, at 16.4 per 100,000 people, according to the center. That’s higher than the national average, which is 11.9 per 100,000 people.

{p dir=”ltr”}Two high-profile gun bills came up in Idaho’s 2019 legislative session.

{p dir=”ltr”}One passed, lowering the minimum age for permitless concealed carry in city limits from 21 to 18. Previously, 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who wanted to carry a concealed gun within city limits in Idaho had to obtain a permit. The measure was not without critics, Boise Police Chief Bill Bones among them.

{p dir=”ltr”}“This is about giving 18-year-olds the ability to carry concealed in the areas where people are most concentrated … with no training, no evaluation for the readiness before we put that gun in the hands of an 18-year-old within our community,” Bones told an Idaho Senate panel in March.

{p dir=”ltr”}Another bill, introduced by Wintrow, failed. It would have temporarily barred anyone convicted of sexual battery of a 16- or 17-year-old from possessing a gun.


Last week, President Donald Trump said he wanted “very meaningful background checks” while assuring the NRA that it’s view would still be fully represented, according to the Associated Press. McConnell earlier this month said background check and red-flag laws would be “front and center” come September.

Meanwhile, Idaho congressmen have shared statements on the recent mass shootings.

“I am heartbroken and mourn for the victims of these shootings, their families, and the survivors of these tragic and senseless acts of violence,” U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, said in a statement to the Idaho Press.

“I agree with everyone, including President Trump, that says more needs to be done to prevent these disgusting atrocities,” Simpson said. “I do not agree that there is one simple answer. As a society, we need to come together and try to understand why this is happening and look for real solutions that will protect both our citizens and their constitutional rights.”

Crapo, in an Aug. 6 statement, said he grieves over the loss of innocent life in Texas and Ohio.

“President Trump has outlined some ideas that we in Congress should consider in light of these latest tragedies,” he said. “We must give ourselves the best chance to stop these senseless acts and protect the lives — and constitutional rights — of innocent Americans.”

Risch condemned the “senseless violence” carried out in El Paso and Dayton, and said he’s praying for the victims and their families.

“As we go forward, I’m sure there will be new proposals that will be debated by Congress,” he told the Idaho Press in a prepared statement Thursday. “The objective has to be to keep Americans safe and safeguard Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

Idaho Press reporter Betsy Russell contributed to this report.


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