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Legislature

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, listens to his colleague during a legislative session at the Idaho Capitol on March 27, 2013, in Boise.

Let’s decriminalize drugs and legalize rape and murder. After all, criminals don’t follow those laws. So what’s the point in even trying to pursue the law of the land?

The Idaho House on Tuesday rejected legislation that would have barred anyone convicted of a domestic violence charge from obtaining a gun. Federal law technically does this already, but it leaves wide loopholes that states can choose to fill in or not. The bill failed with a vote of 39-31, with lawmakers opting to leave the loopholes open in Idaho.

State lawmakers sided with firearms instead of battered women and children because criminals – who by definition do not obey the law – would not abide.

Rep. Bryan Zollinger, R-Idaho Falls, nicely summarized the laughable position that many Republicans share not just on this bill, but on any changes whatsoever to U.S. gun laws. He argued, “Statistics show if people want a gun, they will … There’s no way for us to enforce this.”

So if a criminal is unlikely to obey a law, that legislation must not be worth pursuing. Got it. But apply that same philosophy to any law except gun ownership, and it reveals itself to be ludicrous.

According to a 2003 study by the American Journal of Public Health, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that a woman be killed. In an average month, 50 American women are shot to death by intimate partners.

There are 1.5 million American women alive today who have been shot at by an intimate partner. Another 3 million have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.

Some people should not have guns. They show through their actions – like beating up on their wife or children – that they do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. Yet Idaho legislators made clear where their loyalties lie.

The Idaho Freedom Foundation said this bill was a case of the “gun grabbers” coming for the firearms of law-abiding Idahoans, and plenty of other Republicans cited the people’s right to keep and bear arms. But the bill did not instruct domestic abusers to turn in guns they already own, so if the intention was grabbing guns, it wouldn’t have done a very good job of it.

Kudos to Magic Valley legislators, however, who were nearly unanimous in voting yes for this bill. They contributed seven of the 31 yes votes statewide, with Rep. Steven Miller (R-Fairfield) the only outlier.

“After 40 years of taking care of battered women and children, you tend to get a little emotional,” said Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, a retired physician. “I don’t think it has anything to do with gun control or anything else. I’m going to stand with battered women and children today.”

Wood is spot on. This is not about gun control. It’s about common sense legislation that keeps at least the most commonly-used deadly weapon out of the hands of dangerous and unstable people.

Well done by the lawmakers of south-central Idaho. As for the 39 lawmakers who voted against this bill, might we suggest a stronger argument than “criminals won’t obey this law” next time you vote against legislation that aims to protect a vulnerable segment of your constituency?

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