Concealed carry concerns

Recent passage of Idaho’s ‘Constitutional Carry Bill’ creates more questions

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Photo illustration by JAKE PARRISH/Press

Idaho's Constitutional Carry Bill allows Idaho residents 21 or older statewide, who are not otherwise disqualified, to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

COEUR d'ALENE — It is illegal to have six shots while carrying a six-shooter in Idaho drinking establishments.

But when a patron does it anyway, what’s a bar or restaurant owner to do?

Law enforcement officials and alcohol beverage industry groups alike are using the recent passage of Idaho's "Constitutional Carry Bill” as an avenue to educate individuals on the law.

The bill, which goes into effect July 1, allows Idaho residents 21 or older statewide, who are not otherwise disqualified, to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Susan Jenkins, president of the Idaho Licensed Beverage Association, told The Press on Friday more than three hours of training on the topic of weapons will be offered this week in Boise when her organization hosts a trade show in conjunction with an Idaho State Liquor Division trade show. Both events are geared specifically for bar, tavern and restaurant owners and staff, and state liquor division staff.

"It is something that needs to be addressed, so we are really stepping up with the education part," Jenkins said in a phone interview. "We can't educate enough on the laws and being prepared. It's the first line of defense."

The training available will include a session on active shooter threats conducted by a Boise Police Department lieutenant and informational sessions by Idaho State Police Alcohol Beverage Control officers.

Jenkins said providing timely educational opportunities and training for liquor license holders and their staff is central to the licensed beverage association’s mission, which is to “protect and represent the integrity of licensed beverage holders and promote prosperity, growth and education.”

“This new law may very well change how we do business,” Jenkins wrote, in a later message to The Press. “Educating and familiarizing ourselves and our staffs to the responsibilities we carry as bar owners/staff members, and the tools and resources available for maintaining a safe and secure environment is a constant theme throughout our day.”

Post Falls Police Chief Scot Haug told The Press that on occasion, business owners will approach the department to discuss their rights pertaining to patrons carrying firearms. Establishment owners in Idaho have the right to make a choice, he said.

"With anything, whether it's weapons or they have to have a shirt on, every business has the right to have rules and they just post them," Haug said. "If someone violates the rules, they can call us and we will come and try to educate those folks and work things out between the business owner and the customer."

In the case of weapons, Haug said the best way to inform the public is to post a sign at the entrance of a building stating "No Guns Permitted." Haug said his department has not had any notable issues with patrons violating business owners’ wishes to not have guns in their establishments.

"But, what you find most commonly in North Idaho is that businesses do not have a problem with that," he added.

The Press reached out to multiple businesses last week to discuss the issue, but nearly all did not respond or were unavailable.

Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer, who owns the Fort Ground Grill, told The Press he has never had concerns about patrons lawfully carrying concealed weapons in his business. Widmyer said he would personally never ban concealed weapons from any of his businesses, but “the law is the law.”

"One thing when you have a choice, which is a good thing about Idaho, is that you're a little bit freer," Widmyer said. "If you want to put that up there as a business owner you can."

If he did ever need clarification of the statute, Widmyer said he would rely heavily on input from Coeur d'Alene Police Chief Lee White and Haug.

"Those are two outstanding police chiefs and you've got to follow sound advice from smart people," he said. "You depend on those people to give you good, solid advice."

Haug said he was surprised when his office did not receive numerous questions about the concealed carry bill after it was signed by Gov. Butch Otter on March 24. He doesn't see the bill as a "huge change," but echoed concerns raised by Otter upon signing the bill that there was a lack of education and training attached to it.

"Such a safeguard would seem to be part of the Second Amendment's 'well-regulated' standard," Otter said.

"What's more, the addition of a simple training requirement in this bill could have addressed the concerns of our valued law enforcement leaders and others who cherish both the shooting culture and the safety of shooters and non-shooters alike."

Beginning in June, Haug said he will invite the general public to a free seminar run by his department's range masters, who are responsible for training officers in the use of firearms. The presentation, which will be formally announced at a later date, will take place several times this summer and allow the public to learn about firearms safety, when to get involved, and when it's best to be a good witness.

"I'm supportive of this change and think that the key component we are missing is the educational component," Haug said. "So rather than sit back and say 'Oh this is a terrible thing,' let's embrace it and let's put together the educational component."

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