By RALPH BARTHOLDT
COEUR d’ALENE — Possessing a firearm after being convicted of domestic battery will be against the law in Idaho if a southern Idaho lawmaker has her way.
Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, has been working on legislation that falls in line with a federal law that makes it illegal for domestic abusers to own a gun.
Wintrow introduced the proposal Tuesday in the House Judiciary Rules Committee that would make it a misdemeanor for anyone convicted of domestic assault or battery within the last two years to possess a firearm.
Misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and with maximum fines of $1,000.
Although federal law prohibits violent offenders from having firearms, including people convicted of domestic assault and battery, local law enforcement personnel must use state statute and cannot enforce federal laws because they are not federal agents, police said.
Wintrow said her proposal applies to people already prohibited by federal law from owning or possessing a firearm and it would empower Idaho police to protect families from violent abusers.
“This policy stays in line with 28 other states and the District of Columbia,” Wintrow said.
Wintrow got the green light by members of the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration committee to draft legislation.
“Based on research, we’ve seen this is reasonable legislation,” Wintrow said.
Post Falls Chief of Police Scot Haug said any legislation would have to balance the safety of potential victims of domestic violence with gun rights.
“It would have to be a delicate mix,” Haug said.
Under Wintrow’s proposal, anyone convicted of felony domestic violence would have to petition the court to reinstate their gun rights.
“We’re not talking about a charge. We’re not talking about a phone call. We’re not talking about an allegation,” Wintrow said. “We’re talking about conviction.”
Statistics show, she said, that if firearms are available, domestic altercations are five times more likely to end in death. Idaho surveys have shown that a large majority of people are in favor of keeping guns out of the hands of violent people.
If it is passed, the legislation would mirror federal law and give police a mechanism to enforce the state version of the law.
If the legislation meets that criteria, Haug said, cops would support it.
“If the goal is to reduce domestic violence, I’m all for it,” he said.