On a cool September evening in 1938, Jack Edmunson grabbed his favorite deer rifle, a Winchester .25-35, and a couple boxes of shells. He kissed his wife Mary and his three young children goodbye and walked out the door of their remote log cabin located on Thomas Creek, a few miles south of the historic mining town of Warren, Idaho. Just about a hundred yards below the cabin, he settled in behind a large pine log and waited for the county sheriff to arrive.
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The altercation he’d had with the sheriff the day before was still fresh in his mind. The overbearing sheriff had accused Jack of trespassing on federal lands, and demanded that he remove his family from the cabin or he would remove them by force. Jack quietly reminded the sheriff that this was the middle of the Great Depression. He had left the bread lines and soup kitchens of the city behind and come to Warren where he knew he could get work in the mines and still feed his family. Yes, they had made a home for themselves, squatting in the abandoned log cabin, Jack told the lawman, but they weren’t hurting anybody and it would be wise for him to leave well enough alone. The sheriff must have decided to take Jack’s advice for he didn’t show up that night and stayed clear of Jack from then on.
As the next day dawned, Jack got up from behind the log, grabbed his rifle and shells and headed back up to the cabin, the smell of coffee and thoughts of a hot breakfast leading him on.
It has been over seven decades since my grandfather stood his ground with gun in hand to protect his family against eviction, against an abusive government official. Idahoans have maintained that same fierce independent mindset and still firmly believe in the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. Political leaders throughout Idaho’s history have shown a willingness to protect those rights on a state level. They included the “right to bear arms for their security and defense” in Idaho’s 1889 state constitution, allowed for open carry of firearms in plain view and allowed citizens to apply for concealed weapons permits to carry a weapon on their body or vehicle. Including: 5-249. CIVIL IMMUNITY FOR SELF-DEFENSE. (1) A person who uses force as justified in… Idaho Code… is immune from any civil action for the use of such force except when the person knew or reasonably should have known that the person against whom the force was used was a law enforcement officer acting in the capacity of his or her official duties.Idaho adopted a “castle law” in 2006, providing civil immunity to residents who use physical or deadly force against home invaders. The state also has a preemption law that prohibits local governments from enacting gun laws that are more restrictive than state law, as well as a range law that provides protection for firing ranges. And in response police confiscation of firearms in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, the state is barred from confiscating guns or banning their possession in the case of disaster.
In Idaho we make no apologies for our love of guns, which are a big part of our everyday lives. We collect guns, hunt our abundant wildlife with them and get together in shooting clubs to target practice. To most Idahoans, a gun is the greatest gift to give and the greatest to receive. And for fathers (or mothers) to hand down their favorite deer rifle or goose gun to their sons or daughters is a gift that is cherished above all others. I’m proud to call myself a fourth generation Idaho gun owner and have shared that love with my son and daughters. I am filled with pride as I watch my son pass on that love to his two boys.
Like many of my fellow Idahoans, I was raised with a deeply rooted respect for guns along with a profound respect for the sanctity of human life, two traits generally lacking in the criminal element. With only 1.5 million people spread out over almost 84,000 square miles, we are a mostly rural state with many still living on farms and ranches far from urban areas and far from the protection of the local police departments. Because of this isolation, we have come to rely on ourselves to protect our families. If we have an intruder in our homes there is no time to wait for the authorities to show up, so we don’t hesitate to draw our weapons in defense of our homes and our families. This knowledge of our stance on home defense helps keep break-ins and burglaries at a very low rate in Idaho, but break-ins do occasionally occur.
In December 2009, Coeur D’Alene drive-through coffee shop owner Michelle Cornelson thwarted an attempted armed robbery with the 9mm that her husband had just given her for Christmas. In April 2011, Idaho State Legislator Marv Hagedorn, a staunch defender of the Second Amendment, held an intoxicated intruder at gunpoint in his yard at 3 a.m., keeping him in custody until the police could arrive. In July 2012, Rick Hopkins was home with his family in the city of Idaho Falls when an intruder entered his home. Hopkins retrieved his gun and attempted to hold the criminal at gunpoint until the police arrived. When the criminal appeared to charge Hopkins, he fired twice, wounding him in the leg. The intruder escaped but was later captured.
And it isn’t always humans we have to protect ourselves from here in Idaho. In 2012, Jeremy Hill of Porthill, Idaho watched in horror as three grizzly bears wandered into his yard where his children were playing. Retrieving his gun, he killed one grizzly and the other two ran off. The U.S. Attorney charged Hill with killing a threatened species, but officials in Idaho didn’t agree saying that Hill, “not only had the right, but he had the obligation to protect his children, and protect his family.” The charges were dropped. In 2009, an 11-year-old boy in Teton Valley was home alone with his two younger sisters when a problem black bear attempted to enter their home. The boy retrieved a gun and killed the bear.
Idaho has demonstrated a long history of proven and responsible gun ownership among its law abiding citizens and has shown that the current gun laws are effective. In the aftermath of another horrific mass shooting, as the president and United States Congress prepare to debate the merits of increased gun control, it is important that the focus should be on identifying the Adam Lanzas of the world and keeping guns out of their hands, not ours.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University or the School of Public Service.