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Militia bill passes committee, moves to full house

Idaho Statehouse
Posted at 5:50 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 19:50:19-05

BOISE, Idaho — A bill that looks to repeal Idaho law banning private militias advanced inside the statehouse Wednesday after lawmakers voted to send the bill to the house floor.

The House Transportation and Defense Committee held a hearing yesterday and received a lot of testimony from concerned Idahoans. Idaho’s military division proposed legislation to repeal Idaho law from 1927, outlawing private militias.

The law states people can't start their own military company and restrains cities in Idaho from creating them and Idaho National Guard General Counsel Major Steve Stokes said the language is vague.

“Terms like military company or organization are not defined and are sufficiently vague that the constitutionality is uncertain which makes efficient enforcement tenuous," Stokes said.

Stokes proposed the legislation and says it's part of a continuous effort to get rid of regulations and “red tape,” a plan administered by Gov. Brad Little.

“It prohibits a ‘body of men’ from ‘associating together as a military company or organization," he said. ”Whether this group is armed or not. Second, it prohibits ‘a body of men’ from 'parading in public with firearms in any city of town in the state.’”

A few north Idaho residents testified against the bill explaining experiences with armed groups parading in Coeur d'Alene in 2020.

"The parading of individuals downtown caused extreme. We were terrified,” Coeur d’Alene resident Shawn Keenan said. “Let’s just be honest. Many folks were not able to come downtown to dine at their favorite establishment or even enjoy our parks for fear of a discharge from one of those weapons."

The committee voted 13-4, sending the bill to the full house, but without recommendation on whether it should pass or not.