Idaho Legislature stands firm on home defense bill

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A bill to codify existing “stand your ground” case law and jury instruction is headed to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk.

The Idaho House passed SB 1313 on a 54-12 vote Tuesday, with all 11 Democrats and one Republican opposing. It previously passed the Senate on a straight 29-6 party-line vote.

The bill would make it so people in their homes, workplaces, businesses or vehicles may use deadly force to defend themselves when anyone enters without permission by either stealth or force. It includes a presumption that anyone who uses stealth or force to illegally enter any of those premises “is doing so with the intent to commit a felony.”

SB 1343 states that people don’t have to retreat or wait until a threat is “apparent.” Some legislators and the American Bar Association say Idaho already has “stand your ground” principles from years of case law and jury instructions, essentially meaning these castle doctrine principles are already in use.

The bill’s original author, Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said his bill was crafted to enshrine those “stand your ground” legal principles already in use to one place. Its sponsor on the House floor, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, said, “This bill, again, just codifies our existing standard of case law and jury instruction.”

Republicans in both chambers said putting the rights into one piece of legislation allows for citizens to more easily understand their self-defense rights, but Democrats, including Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, voiced concern.

“It shouldn’t be enough that somebody’s just in your house. If that person is an 80-year-old man with dementia, or if that person is a neighbor bringing you cookies … Under the language of this statute it gives me great concern,” Rubel said.

The bill has support from numerous gun right groups, like the National Rifle Association and the Idaho State Rifle and Pistol Association. The Idaho Sheriff’s Association also supports the bill.

Groups such as the ACLU of Idaho and Moms Demand Action have opposed the legislation, saying “stand your ground” laws increase violence unnecessarily.

Twenty-four states have “stand your ground laws” on the books, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Having cleared both chambers, SB 1243 now heads to Gov. Otter’s desk.

•••

Kyle Pfannenstiel covers the 2018 Idaho Legislature for the University of Idaho McClure Center for Public Policy Research.

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