Truth’s not subject to lawyers and guns

Idaho State Journal Editorial

The truth hurts, but apparently not enough to gut the Idaho Attorney General’s Office budget or deter ridiculous statements in the “guns on campus” debate.
After proposing a mean-spirited piece of legislation aimed at degrading the office run by the state’s elected legal expert, sponsor Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, asked the House State Affairs Committee to dump his bill which it did gladly on Wednesday.
Barbieri wanted his own legislative attorneys after A.G. Lawrence Wasden shot down the legality of his pet “nullification” bill. Barbieri proposed establishing a new “Office of Legislative Counsel” staffed with lawyers myopic enough to embrace raw political ambition instead of legal precedent. Money to pay for the new legal eagles would have been stripped from the attorney general’s budget.
During the eight-week debate over a bill to essentially cancel the power of the federal government to enact its new health care legislation, the attorney general issued two opinions saying such action was unconstitutional. Barbieri is the legislator who championed nullification. The bill died in the Senate.
Wasden is a 22-year veteran of the Office of the Attorney General who has served in many capacities to represent the state’s interests before being elected to the top post three times. The University of Idaho law grad served as deputy prosecutor in Canyon County and as prosecuting attorney for Owyhee County.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office does a lot more than give legal advice to the legislature. It represents the state in criminal appellate and civil cases and protects Idaho consumers from fraud.
When Priest Lake Republican Rep. Eric Anderson called Barbieri’s move to create a separate office for legislative legal counsel “a very bad piece of legislation,” committee chairman Tom Loertscher chastised Anderson. Loertscher said it wasn’t appropriate to condemn another lawmaker’s motives.
We think it is when those motives may be vindictive. Legal advice should be based on established truths, not political expediency.
But the truth took another beating during testimony on a bill to force Idaho colleges and universities to open campuses to firearms. House Bill 222, which passed the Idaho House last week and currently rests in the Senate, would strip colleges and universities of their current right to ban firearms on campuses, except in undergraduate dormitories.
During testimony in the House last week, Republican caucus chairman Ken Roberts of Donnelly made a statement about the value of armed citizens in America that invents its own reality.
“It’s one of the basic facts that keeps America safer today than any other nation in the world. It’s because the citizens are armed,” Donnelly said.
It must be a world that doesn’t include Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark or Sweden, among others. The overall homicide rate in those nations is about eight times less than the U.S. per 100,000 people. Murder rates involving firearms are five to 16 times lower in those countries.
Maybe Rep. Donnelly just feels safer than anyone else in the world when he’s packing a gun. We’d hope a little more truthful research and a little less gut feeling nurtured by political fervor would shape Idaho political decisions.
If not, maybe we should all start looking for a good lawyer—or a gun—to defend our beliefs.