Idaho legislator clarifies decision to hold “stand-your-ground” bill in House committee

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — An Idaho legislator is defending his decision to hold a bill in committee, effectively preventing the bill from advancing in the Idaho State Legislature.

House Bill 444, often referred to as the “stand-your-ground,” bill, aims to amend what Idaho code says about justifiable homicide. But, the bill remains in committee as the chairman of the House State of Affairs Committee, Representative Tom Loertscher, chose to not send the bill to hearing citing constitutionality among other reasons.

“They’ve got the issues all so intertwined in it that if one part of it is found to be unconstitutional they’d have to throw the whole thing out,” Representative Tom Loertscher said in a recorded meeting of the Bonneville Republican Central Committee. 

The intertwined issues, Loertscher later told KID Newradio, are problematic because of what the sponsors of the bill have written into the end of the legislation: a severability clause. When legislator’s draft a bill, a severability clause can act a protection for other parts of the bill should some of the legislation be deemed unconstitutional.

In the case of House Bill 444, if one part of the legislation was deemed unconstitutional, the rest of the bill would stand. But, Loertscher said the bill is written in such a way that the clause wouldn’t protect the legislation the way the sponsors think it would.

“House Bill 444 is so intertwined with both the concept of castle doctrine and the stand your ground provisions in it that if one of those sections were struck down, any one of those sections, the whole thing would had have to away anyway,” Loetscher told KID Newsradio.

It’s true, the bill could be rewritten to fix those errors, but the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance claims Loertscher has been unwilling to work with them.

“Tom claims that he has tried working with us on it,” according to a Facebook post by the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance. “Except anytime anyone has asked him for specifics, he doesn’t ever name them. Last year Alexandria C. Kincaid sat down with him and when it was clear that he couldn’t stand in the same room with her on the subject, he brought in Rep. Luker to help out.”

Loertscher says the exact opposite is true and he’s been the one experiencing push back on changing the bill.

“The bill is fraught with problems and in spite of my efforts to try to get the sponsors of it to to make some corrections to it so it would be workable at least, they have refused to do that,” Loetscher told KID Newsradio.

But, the constitutionality of the bill and it’s accompany severability clause wasn’t the only thing motivating Loertscher to shelf the bill. Loertscher told the Bonneville Republican Central Committee House Bill 444 would have no chance of passing in either legislative body and asking House committee members to vote on a bill they themselves didn’t support would unnecessarily put candidates up for re-election, at risk.

“All of leadership in the House has told me this is not a good idea,” Loertscher told the Bonneville Republican Central Committee. “All of leadership, plus a whole slew of other legislators, good Republican legislators, some of which will be in jeopardy if they are voting no on a bill like this. We’ve got some close races over here. We have close races in Boise where if the Republican base doesn’t show up to support them, we’ll have Democrats sitting here.”

Putting House Bill 444 to hearing, Loetscher said, puts committee members in a tough spot because a vote against it for reasons more logistical or grammatical, than political, comes off to the public as a move against the second amendment or against constitutional rights.

“My reason for opposing the bill has nothing to do with the second amendment,” Loetscher told KID Newsradio. “It has to do with the bill is not written properly and that’s the case with a lot of legislators here and so those votes become very difficult, especially for those who have who have difficult challenges in the general election…Once in a while…bills will be held to protect members of the committee from having to make a vote on something that they normally would support when the legislation itself is so flawed.”

As for the claims opposition to the bill is rooted in anti-second amendment sentiments, Loetscher said the bill is much broader than the second amendment.

“Neither one of these bills, neither House Bill 444 or Senate Bill 1313 are a second amendment bill,” Loetscher told KID Newsradio.  “They don’t have the word ‘gun’ in them anywhere. These are justifiable homicide bills. What constitutes being  justifiable homicide [is] when you’re defending your property, yourself or your family or someone else. So it’s a misnomer on their part, but you know the perception is that you voted against a pro-gun bill and that’s not what the bills are at all.  Those are difficult issues here and it be a whole lot better if we sorted those out some before these folks have to make a vote on them.”