There’s little need for a proposed bill that would penalize Idaho law enforcement for helping the federal government confiscate firearms, said a Kootenai County Sheriff's official today.
But the state legislation would probably set people's minds at ease, Lt. Stu Miller acknowledged.
"People, they're so nervous about anything to do with guns, it's not humorous," Miller said. "We have people calling us, asking us when the deputies are going to show up at their house and start taking their guns."
A bill introduced in the Legislature today states that if the federal government ever requires firearm registration, or confiscation of semi-automatic guns or magazines, any Idaho government employees who enforce such laws will be guilty of a misdemeanor.
The punishment could be up to a year in jail, and or up to a $1,000 fine.
The bill, which didn't have a number yet, had 22 co-sponsors, according to the AP.
"We think that the bill, if it passes, will give local law enforcement personnel a level of comfort that they need not follow orders from federal authorities in this area," said Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who couldn't remember if he was a co-sponsor on the bill.
It's highly unlikely the bill's provisions would ever be necessary, Miller said.
The federal government, still discussing potential gun regulation, has openly sworn off pursuing any gun seizures or registry, he noted.
The 23 executive orders President Barack Obama issued on gun safety last month don't mention such steps.
"Out of all of those, none of them propose taking firearms from citizens," Miller said.
The legislation also seems to be redundant, he noted.
Local authorities can't enforce federal law already, Miller said.
"The Sheriff's Office is mandated to perform all duties as prescribed by state law, not federal law," said Miller, who emphasized he hadn't read the proposed bill yet. "Our authority and duties come from the Idaho legislature, not the president or Congress."
Rob Turner, detective lieutenant with the Coeur d'Alene Police, also said the bill isn't covering new ground.
"We don't enforce federal laws as it is," Turner said. "Right now, if we get a convicted felon or a sawed-off shotgun, we call a federal agent."
Barbieri said assuring the public is a large motivator for the proposed bill.
"I think the legislature is responding to constituent concerns. They're being very vocal," Barbieri said of people convinced their guns will be taken. "Each of us is getting plenty of input about making sure their rights are protected from intrusion on the federal level."
He noted that local law enforcement was federally required to confiscate people's firearms during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana.
"If we had it in place to pre-empt a situation like that, where local enforcement can point to a statute to say, 'We cannot become federal government agents,' I think it is a good pre-emptive move," Barbieri said.
The confiscation of guns after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a different kind of situation, Miller said.
"There was a push because people were looting stores and shooting at the first responders," he said.
There's already protection against that happening again, Miller added.
In 2006, Congress banned confiscating guns during emergencies and natural disasters, to avoid repeating the post-Katrina circumstances.
And yet, Miller acknowledged that several other states have pursued laws like the one proposed today.
"I guess it makes people happy," he said of the extra precaution.
The county sheriff still supports residents' rights to bear arms, Miller added.
"They're in the wrong neck of the woods, if they try it," he said of gun confiscation here.