Some lawmakers question gun permit exemption

BOISE, Idaho — After a state lawmaker lost his concealed weapons permit for lying about a decades-old felony, some legislators are questioning the merits of a law giving elected officials an exemption from having to get a permit.

Last month, the Ada County sheriff revoked the concealed weapons permit of Rep. Mark Patterson, R-Boise, after discovering that Patterson failed to disclose on permit applications in 2007 and again in 2012 a guilty plea and withheld judgment stemming from a 1974 rape case in Florida. He first applied for the permit before he was a lawmaker.

Patterson contends now he was innocent but agreed on his attorney’s advice to plead guilty to a lesser charge of assault with intent to commit rape. Patterson has not said whether he will appeal the sheriff’s decision.

But Patterson’s permit problems have caused some Republican lawmakers to ponder the fairness of a 1990 law that exempts elected officials from having to obtain a concealed weapons permit. Idaho is the only state that exempts elected officials from the permit law.

“I have a philosophy that those of us in public office should be under the same laws as the general public,” Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, told the Spokesman-Review ( ).

Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, also wondered what the exemption says about lawmaker privilege.

“I think the message it sends is that elected officials get perks,” he said. “And when it comes to the Second Amendment, I think that’s particularly disturbing, because essentially, it’s saying we should have more ability to protect ourselves than the average citizen.”

Rep. Lynn Luker, R-Boise, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he’s not ready to do away with the elected-official exemption, citing concerns that public officials can be considered higher profile targets.

“I think it’s something that we need to have a further look-see at,” Luker said.

Idaho’s elected-official exemption applies to any elected official in the state, from school board members and highway district commissioners to the governor.

It also exempts a slew of others, with many of the additional exemptions added in amendments since 1990. Those include peace officers; jail guards; military employees; criminal investigators for the attorney general or county prosecutors; city or county officials; retired peace officers; people legally hunting, fishing or trapping outside a city; and on-duty officers of express companies.

Patterson is a freshman lawmaker, elected in 2012 to represent a district in southwest Boise. He did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press on Monday.

On his 2012 application, Patterson, 61, did not mention the guilty plea and withheld judgment from the felony rape case. Having a withheld judgment would have disqualified him from carrying a concealed firearm.

Patterson was 21 at the time he was accused of the crime and he served time in jail before agreeing to plead guilty to assault with intent to commit rape. He also received five years’ probation but was released from probation early by the judge in the case.

The Idaho Statesman initially reported Sunday about Patterson’s permit revocation. In that story, Patterson said he didn’t commit the crime and was being targeted by the Ada County sheriff.

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