BOISE -- Earlier this month, State Rep. Mark Patterson lost his concealed weapons permit for lying about a decades-old felony. But, he can still carry a concealed weapon. It's all because of a 1990 law that exempts elected officials in Idaho from having to obtain a concealed weapons permit.
Idaho is the only state in the union to exempt elected officials, any elected officials, from this concealed weapons permit law. Many, as was the case with Patterson, have those permits anyway. And numerous Idaho lawmakers carry while they are at the Statehouse, which is totally legal.
In order to get a concealed weapons permit, you normally have to take a safety class or demonstrate that you know how to safely carry a gun. You are ineligible for a number of reasons. Those include things like a felony conviction or a withheld judgment, like in the case of Patterson. But again, you don't need a permit to concealed carry if you're an elected official in Idaho.
Some lawmakers we've heard from like the exemption. They say they are higher-profile targets, and regardless of their personal history, need more protection. Others say it just looks bad to the public, like they're getting special treatment, when they should be held to the same standard as everyone else.
Rep. Rich Wills (R-Glenns Ferry) has years of experience in law enforcement, and is the chair of the Judiciary Committee. He hasn't heard of anyone yet who might be working on a repeal. But he says if someone does bring one forward, he'd want to hear it, because there is one concern he has with the current law.
"Are we a bigger target in today's society than we were 10 or 15 years ago? The answer is unequivocally, 'Yes, we are.'" said Wills. "That being said though, we also have security measures that we can do from a law enforcement standpoint. My concern is, if say, and I'm going to use as an example, if something did happen at the Capitol, where were all together. Are we going to get unqualified people from the standpoint of knowing when to shoot and how to shoot effectively and safely?"