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.

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.

Jack Edmunson

Edmunson Family
The author’s grandfather, Jack Edmunson, with his favorite deer rifle.

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.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.

  • Fred
  • Fred
  • Clete, I appreciate your nostalgia about gun ownership across generations of Idahoans, but the firearms death and injury data just don’t support your argument that “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.” Idaho’s gun laws are so lax that guns sold in Idaho are used far and away more in out-of-state crimes than are guns sold in other states. In 2011, 299 guns used in crimes outside of Idaho were traced to Idaho gun sales; the next biggest offender was Washington state, and it had only 48 guns used in crimes out of state. Furthermore, Idahoans have some of the highest death rates by firearms in any of the states; states with the least gun control have the highest numbers of firearms deaths per capita.

  • TS


    Thanks for you articulate post. I enjoyed it.

    Because you are an honorable fellow, we are numbed into thinking about Idaho frontiersmen, these rugged manly men who just want to defend their family. But, as a practical matter, if protecting family is the objective, I would not recommend an armed stand-off with law enforcement. Randy Weaver went there with regrets. As a matter of good policy, we can’t govern by gun intimidation. Jack threaten to kill the man the county hired to enforce the laws of land ownership. What if your neighbor claimed the land. A gun fight?

    I have no problem with you having a gun. Heck, you can give eight sniper rifles for the eight days of Chanukah for all I care. Too bad out world populated by people who are not so sane or responsible. As it stands, there is nothing preventing you from selling your arsenal to the next Adam Lanza or Seung-Hui Cho,

    Thanks for having the courage to post. You brought up a valid point about people who live in isolation cannot necessarily depend on 911.

    Gratefully, TS

  • Beth Latina

    I am a 63 year old woman who raised my 2 children by hunting for food and working in the mines and construction. Without being able to hunt I would have had to go on welfare when work was scarce. Not an option for me. I always felt we were safe in our home because I had a gun by my bed, not a man in it. The president and congress should take a close look at what is really motivating the youth today. The violent video games and TV influence these young minds and fill them with rage. They aren’t mature enough to know how to handle these feelings and if there are no guns available and they want to kill there are enough lessons on any channel on the TV or a video game on how to do it that they will carry out their mission in any number of other ways which could be even more deadly. We need to ban the violent video games and TV and maybe then our youth will stand a chance of becoming better people. Guns have very little to do with the problem at hand.

  • Excellent job Clete! I cherish my first gun I ever received from my Mom and Dad when I was a child, which I was given on Christmas one year. It is a over and under shot gun, 22 cal. on top/ 20 gauge on bottom. Best Christmas present ever. You are exactly right, we do have a love for our guns, because it is our life style. People that don’t live in our shoes don’t have a clue to what we are talking about. It may be like outlawing shopping for people in the city or going to a mall just because you can. What I do know is that my love for guns isn’t so that I can go out and shoot people. It is for the sport of shooting, hunting, and the time with family doing these things, and in the event that our Government tries to over reach what they are elected to do, my guns are for our freedom.

  • Daniel Medley

    Using numbers from 2006, Idaho ranked 42 out of the 50 states as far as the number of violent crimes per 100,000: http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html with 247 acts of violent crime per hundred thousand. Compare that to the District of Columbia with some of the strictest gun control laws at a staggering 1508 violent crimes per 100,000.

    The notion of focusing on “firearm violence” is flawed. The discussion is better served when looking at violence as a whole to better understand the larger picture.

    Further, comparing actual gun violence, looking at Idaho with it’s deeply rooted and open gun culture, the rate of gun homicides in Idaho is about 1.22 per 100,000. Compare it to a highly gun regulated state like California where the gun homicide rate is 4.82 per 100,000. Those numbers, focusing on gun homicides, however, do not tell the complete story. Better yet, one should take note of the overall homicide rate and compare them. Idaho=30 per 100,000 while California=2392 per 100,000.

    Nah, Idaho’s rich gun culture is just fine, thank you.

  • TS

    Yes, Mr. Medley, Idahoans have plenty of guns and yet our state has few murders than, say, Georgia or Alabama. But add suicide to murder and the pictures is not so bright. Idaho, suicide prone, ranks sixth per capita. An Idahoan kills himself or herself about every 35 hours. Many are teenagers. ABC’s News reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for Idahoans age 15 to 34. Firearms, nationwide in 2010, were the weapon of choice for 50 percent of suicides. In Idaho, guns suicides were 63 percent. “More guns equal more suicides,” said Harvard Injury Control Research Center in a 2012 literature review. “The preponderance of current evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for youth suicide in the United States.”

  • Big Bruiser

    How was the sheriff abusive and overbearing by attempting to enforce a law that your grandfather was breaking? To what extent do we want police to enforce laws subjectively? Your other examples of the defensive use of guns are fine. I agree with them. Your grandfather, however, was breaking the law and was prepared to commit murder to keep doing so. How is that a legitimate use of guns?

  • “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

    In other words, the only thing preventing Idahoans from becoming a raged mob of criminals is the fear of being shot. Not true at all. Idahoans are good people. They are thoughtful, kind, helpful, charitable and caring. If you took all the guns out of Grangeville, our crime rate would still be next to zero. To imply that this community would erupt into robbing, burglarizing, raping gangsters is insulting. I’ve lived many, many places, and Idaho is one of the best. Not because we’re obscenely armed, but because we are decent people.