House editorial: The vote we won’t let you live down

The deadline to file for local district legislative and county seats is Friday.

It’s with mounting despair we note how few challengers to eastern Idaho incumbents have so far come forward.

It’s especially discouraging to face this fact when nearly every one of eastern Idaho’s representatives in the Legislature on Tuesday chose to support the gun rights of those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence over the rights of their victims to not have to live in fear of being murdered by their abusers who have ready, legal access to firearms.

Before the vote, Rep. Bryan Zollinger cited nebulous “statistics” and stated “…If people want a gun, they will… There’s no way for us to enforce this.”

In reality, it’s quite possible to enforce it – ask the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, which supported the bill. It would have barred convicted domestic abusers who had threatened their intimate partners from buying or possessing guns for two years, something that is already federal law and is currently on the books in 28 states and the District of Columbia. It was essentially a way to close a loophole in state law.

Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue supported the bill after handling a case where a man shot his wife to death in front of one of their children after pleading down his felony domestic violence charge to a misdemeanor. It was the man’s daughters who brought the idea for the bill to Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise.

The fact is, one in 10 mass-injury shootings involve a perpetrator with a history of domestic violence. Domestic violence incidents involving a gun are also more likely to be fatal. In a 2016 New York Times analysis involving 358 mass shootings in the U.S., 11 percent were domestic violence cases, but 31 percent of the victims died.

Since then, at least three mass shooting incidents in 2016 and 2017 where the shooters had a history of domestic violence, resulted in the violent deaths of 56 and the injuries of 69 innocent bystanders.

This was a bad choice by our representation, an embarrassing choice and a detrimental choice that could just as directly lead to the deaths of Idahoans as their decisions to systematically neglect an entire state demographic of affordable health care.

Most of the dozens of letters to the editor published in the three weeks after the Parkland, Fla. shooting on Valentine’s Day supported some sort of legislative action that would take guns out of the hands of proven disturbed and violent individuals.

Let’s be clear: Eastern Idaho’s lawmakers did not listen to their constituents.

If Zollinger were truly interested in statistics, he wouldn’t have been able to overlook the multitude of actual data gathered in decades of studies that, over and over again, show this fact: women whose intimate partners possess a gun are 500 percent more likely to be murdered by their abusers. Five hundred percent!

Domestic abuse survivors at the bill’s public hearing showed photographs of the children their abusers had threatened with guns they owned and still have ready access to.

Eastern Idaho, we should be hanging our heads in shame that this is what the rest of the state – and the rest of the world – can glean of our city and our region based on the representation we have chosen, and will likely be forced to choose again by virtue of a simple lack of alternatives.

Here are the eastern Idaho legislators who supported the right to bear arms of proven violent individuals who are statistically among the most likely Americans to use their weapons to commit murder: Districts 30 and 33 — Jeff Thompson, Barbara Ehardt, Bryan Zollinger and Wendy Horman; District 32 — Tom Loertscher (Marc Gibbs of Grace, Idaho, supported the bill); District 34 — Ron Nate (Dell Raybould, who is retiring, voted for the bill).

As of news time, only Thompson, Harris, Loertscher and Nate have Republican challengers. Here’s hoping this stink sticks to them until the primary in May.

As for the legislators without GOP challengers, here’s hoping there are some last-minute filings or a miracle occurs and those with Democratic challengers can stun the world in November, a reality that has faced GOP candidates in “safe” red districts across the country in other races.

If all else fails, the next time a domestic violence survivor is murdered by an intimate partner already convicted of domestic abuse, we know who to call and demand get to work on laws that will prevent it from happening again simply because law enforcement lacked the basic tools to prevent it.

Finally, if this does happen in our community or our region, we’ll make sure it sticks with them – and their consciences.

When you have children being threatened by convicted, violent individuals, or mothers being murdered in front of their kids, you draw the line. You just do.

Representatives, you failed. We may be stuck with you, but we won’t let you forget.

Editor’s note: This has been edited to remove the name of Senator Mark Harris, District 32. The Senate did not vote on HB 585.


Katie Stokes is the Commentary page editor. Email her at kstokes@postregister.com.


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