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Idaho students pursue licensing for minors to use firearms

November 8, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A group of Boise students is drafting legislation to require licensing for minors to purchase firearms, hoping to win bipartisan support for the gun control measure in one of the most conservative states in the nation.

The students, all members of the board of Idaho’s March for Our Lives, which advocates for “sensible gun violence prevention policies,” hope the measure will help prevent suicides, school shootings and other forms of gun violence by slowing the process that minors use to buy a gun, the Idaho Statesman reported Monday. The group hopes to prevent students in the midst of mental health crises from easily access firearms.

Kate Stevens, a senior at Boise High School and the state director of the board, said the the first active shooting drill she remembers was in second grade. The drills have since become commonplace.

“The first thing we should be thinking about when we walk into school and when we walk into a classroom is not, ‘Oh, am I going to die today?’ ” Stevens said. “It should be, ‘What am I going to learn?’ ”

Idaho law currently requires minors to either have written permission from a parent or guardian or to be accompanied by a parent or guardian when purchasing firearms.

Kids under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult when in possession of a weapon, and they can’t have handguns. Some other types of weapons are restricted unless the child and adult are on private property or taking part in a class or competition.

“You can be 12, and go down to your Walmart as long as your parent is with you, and buy a deadly weapon that you don’t have adequate safety training with, and operate it legally,” Stevens said.

The students are drafting legislation that would require minors to go through a few additional steps before purchasing firearms, including submitting an application for a license from the sheriff’s office and showing proof of in-person training on firearm safety by an approved instructor.

The legislation is still being drafted, so some of the provisions could change, Stevens said.

“Mental health is an issue that should not be politicized,” Stevens said. “We’re trying to make it so that we have support from both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature.”

The group said anything that can slow the process of minors buying or possessing guns will help.

“Especially common sense things that everyone agrees on,” said Shiva Rajbhandari, a junior at Boise High. “Let’s implement those. And I mean, see how it goes. We’re kind of at rock bottom right now.”

The students are working with state Sen. Melissa Wintrow, a Democrat from Boise, who said she wants to help them understand the legislative process, regardless of how tough it might be to get the legislation passed.

Wintrow said it’s not the first time that she has been contacted by students concerned about gun laws.

“Our state does have some of the most liberal, lax gun laws,” Wintrow said.

In Idaho, 19 children and teens on average die from guns every year, and more than 80% of those are suicides, according to Everytown for Gun Safety.

“It’s really important to put a kink in that process,” Stevens said. “And make sure that kids who are operating firearms do have adequate safety training.”

Last school year, a sixth grade girl injured three people in a shooting at Rigby Middle School in East Idaho. Rajbhandari said he wants gun legislation that could help prevent those kind of situations.