Seth Rosquist

Seth Rosquist of Caldwell, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance board chairman, speaks about gun rights Monday at an event featuring gubernatorial candidate Tommy Ahlquist at Independence Indoor Shooting in Meridian.

Gun rights were the theme of Tommy Ahlquist’s campaign stop Monday at Independence Indoor Shooting in Meridian. Most of the questions from attendees, however, centered on other issues such as crowded roads and health care costs.

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance hosted the event to discuss gun laws in Idaho.

The event was planned before the mass shooting in Las Vegas, but that tragedy may have caused people to wonder how their gun rights might be affected, said Rick Casner, academy director at the shooting range.

Seth Rosquist, chairman of the board for the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, said Democrats and “even Republicans” in Congress are talking about banning bump stocks, devices that enable semi-automatic weapons to fire continuously.

“We need to stand up,” Rosquist said. “Now is not the time to capitulate. Now is the time to fight even harder.

“It’s not about the bump stocks, it’s not about the firearms,” he said in reference to mass shootings. “It’s about what’s in people’s hearts." 

New legislation, he added, can't change that.

Ahlquist said hearts are heavy after what happened in Las Vegas, but new gun control laws aren’t the answer. What's needed, he said, are improvements to mental health care.

“That’s what we should be talking about,” Ahlquist said. “Not new laws, for crying out loud.”

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance would like to see some changes to Idaho gun laws. The alliance is pushing for a stand-your-ground bill that would provide stronger protections for someone who uses lethal force against an intruder, said past chairman Zach Brooks, who ran for Idaho Senate in Caldwell last year.

The burden of proof in that situation should be on the intruder, he said, not on the homeowner who was acting in self-defense.

The alliance pushed for three years to get permitless concealed carry passed in Idaho, which took effect July 1, 2016. The alliance would like to see the law amended so that non-residents in Idaho are also allowed to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, Brooks said.

The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance will discuss gun rights issues again on Feb. 20, when it will host a question-and-answer forum with gubernatorial candidates at the Nampa Civic Center. 

Ahlquist is running as a Republican for Idaho governor in 2018. In the primary election he'll face U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, Lt. Gov. Brad Little, HyDee Liebelt, Lisa Marie, Steve Pankey, Sidney Taylor and Steve Tingey.

OTHER CONCERNS

Monday’s event drew in approximately 25 people. The first question posed was about crowded roads. With so many people moving to Idaho, corridors such as Eagle Road and State Street are becoming choked, one man said. What is the state’s plan to handle infrastructure needs?

Ahlquist said the state is falling behind on maintaining infrastructure and must have a different approach in how it taxes and spends money. As a private developer, he said, it costs him half as much to build a mile of road than costs the government, and he wants to know why that is.

Rising health care costs were also a big concern among attendees. Ahlquist said federal policy has driven up prices, and prices don't match up with what it actually costs for supplies or procedures.

Ahlquist proposes that Idaho create a separate high-risk insurance pool, something the state has done in the past, he said.

A woman asked how Idaho can improve mental health care access for youth. Ahlquist said there's a critical shortage of mental health care providers and the state needs to invest in mental health care.

Another woman asked if there’s any data on how much it costs the state to resettle refugees. Ahlquist said we have homeless children here locally.

"My theory is let's take care of our own," he said.

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