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Gun bill could put Idaho law enforcement in no-win situation

Press-Tribune Editorial board
March 15, 2013
Idaho Press-Tribune

It's supposed to be a simple concept: Law-enforcement officers take an oath to - you guessed it - enforce the law. That doesn't mean they have to agree with each one, or even like it. They're simply supposed to enforce it. Hence the term "law enforcement."

As hard as it may be to believe, the Idaho House of Representatives voted rather decisively - 55-13 - to put those officers in a state of conflict should the federal government impose restrictions on guns or ammunition. The bill, which now heads to the Senate, would bring jail time and/or fines to sheriff's deputies and police officers who help federal agents confiscate newly banned firearms or bullets.

Another over-the-top, paranoid, unnecessary preemptive strike at a demon that has yet to appear - and given the makeup of Congress, probably won't. And even if it did, it would put law-enforcement officers in a situation they don't deserve to be in.

There's no doubt that Idaho legislators are being deluged with phone calls, letters and emails from constituents demanding that they do something - anything - to make sure the feds don't come to their doors and demand their guns. So these lawmakers want to be able to say they did everything within their power.

Fair enough. Given what President Obama and some liberals in Congress have said, these are skittish times for staunch gun rights defenders.

But no bills have been voted on in Congress, much less introduced. Not only are Republicans - who control the House - united in opposition to taking your guns away, so are enough Democrats as to make major firearm restrictions unlikely at best.

Whatever does pass Congress and is signed into law, Idaho can't opt out of it. It doesn't work that way. States can't decline to obey federal laws they don't like.

So if this Idaho bill does become law, Idaho police officers and sheriff's deputies could be treated like criminals for enforcing the law. On what planet does that make any sense?

It would be nice if the Idaho Attorney General's Office or Gov. Butch Otter were to take a public stand against this one and nip it in the bud.

Let's leave the lawmaking to the lawmakers. Let's leave the determination of what laws are and are not constitutional to the court system. And let's let law-enforcement officers do their jobs of enforcing the laws that are passed by the lawmakers and upheld by the courts.

* Our view is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board. Members of the board are Publisher Matt Davison, Managing Editor Vickie Holbrook, Opinion Editor Phil Bridges and community members Maria Radovich, Mike Fuller, Kenton Lee, Rich Cartney, Megan Harrison and Kelly Gibbons.

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The editorial posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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