Friday, March 13, 2009

Camas to repeal local gun law prohibited by state

Idaho law prohibits local restrictions

Express Staff Writer

Faced with an Idaho law prohibiting locally enacted regulations of firearms and ammunition, plus critical attention from the National Rifle Association's legal department, Camas County commissioners on Monday are scheduled to repeal a county ordinance enacted nearly two years ago banning firearms in county buildings.

County Attorney Calvin Campbell, who acts as attorney for Gooding and Camas counties, confirmed that Ordinance No. 154 is unenforceable because an Idaho statute, Title 18-3302J, prohibits any city or county governmental entity from enacting laws regulating firearms and ammunition.

The county's gun law, signed July 17, 2007, banned carrying a gun in any Camas County building or at public meetings.

Taking the law off the Camas County books is a victory of sorts for Camas businessman George Martin Jr., a persistent critic of county government who attacked the firearm ordinance as illegal. He fired off a letter to the NRA as well as alerted Idaho Gov. Butch Otter's legal counsel.

Attorney Campbell said the commission would appeal to the Legislature to rewrite the state law so local government could enact laws specifically banning firearms in public buildings.

Campbell said the Camas law was passed because commissioners were concerned that heated public meetings on controversial issues might lead to gun-bearing members of an audience to become threats.

Martin, who said he was delighted the ordinance would be repealed, has assailed what he calls secrecy in county government. A lawsuit he filed two years ago declaring a new comprehensive county zoning plan to be illegal is tied up in federal and state courts. Martin said attorneys' fees on both sides have run into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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