Last week the Idaho State Senate by a vote of 25-9 passed a proposed state constitutional amendment to strengthen protections for victims of crime. Interestingly, some Idaho gun groups are claiming the measure is some sort of gun grab.
The measure is known as Marcy’s law and similar versions have been adopted in 11 states. They generally give victims the right to be notified of hearings and present their views. Idaho already has victim protection in its constitution and the proposed measure tweaks various parts. The following are the substantive additions:
A. A crime victim has the following rights:
(10) To reasonable protection from the accused and those acting on behalf of the accused throughout the criminal justice process.
B. The crime victim, the crime victim's attorney or other lawful representative, or the attorney for the government upon the government's initiative, or upon request of the crime victim, may assert and seek enforcement of the rights enumerated in this section and any other right afforded to the crime victim by law, which shall be acted upon promptly.
(C) As used in this section, a "crime victim" is an individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as the result of the commission of a crime or juvenile offense. The term "crime victim" does not include the accused or a person who the court finds would not act in the best interests of a deceased, incompetent, minor, or incapacitated victim.
(D) Nothing in this section is intended to, or shall be interpreted to, supersede an accused's federal constitutional rights, nor to afford a victim an independent right to be heard as a party during trial.
Senate sponsor Todd Lakey (R-Nampa), told KID NewsRadio last week that the measure “is really about giving crime victims in Idaho an effective voice in the criminal justice process.”
Opponents have zeroed in on the provision authorizing “reasonable protection from the accused”. In particular, their fear is that passage will lead to the removal of weapons held by criminal defendants.
Greg Pruett of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance told the radio station that: “Well, couldn’t the judge issue an order and say, I believe reasonable protection in this particular case means we need to take guns away from somebody who was accused of a crime?”
His group plans to hold a rally at the State Capitol next Saturday to oppose the measure.
This angle seems a bit off. The proposed amendment specifically states that “[n]othing in this section is intended to, or shall be interpreted to, supersede an accused's federal constitutional rights . . .” That would certainly include the Second Amendment and its application to individuals under District of Columbia v. Heller.
The real target of the opposition is so-called “red flag” laws which allow victims of domestic violence to request that weapons be removed from the defendant. Several states have passed such laws and the Idaho House considered one last year and narrowly defeated it. So far, this year, another one hasn’t been introduced.
Pruett last year argued that such a law would be unfair to a domestic violence defendant because a judge could decide removal without the participation of the defendant. A simple and somewhat obvious solution would be to provide that such an order could only last a limited time until a hearing is held. But, sometimes in politics, solutions are not the primary focus.
The connection of these attacks to Marcy’s law seems strained at best. Some legislators believe that some Idaho gun rights activists are trying to create an issue to gin up their base, even if the basis is rather weak. I concur.
The real issue is can opponents block the measure in the Idaho House? Placing the measure on the ballot requires a full two-thirds vote. That is a high hurdle and is the likely reason for this Saturday’s rally.