Idaho has long had to contend with extremism and domestic terror within its borders. It’s where the Aryan Nations, a violent neo-Nazi hate group, was established and headquartered; where the Ruby Ridge standoff, between a self-identified white separatist and federal agents, took place; and where, in recent years, far-right actors have amassed in search of “escaping diversity” by fleeing to a version of the state that exists primarily in the hard-line conservative imagination, said Tony Stewart, a resident of Coeur d’Alene and founding member of a Kootenai County human rights task force. This year, the concept of “terror” has again come to the fore in the GOP-dominated Idaho Legislature.

“Terrorism is upon us,” Republican Representative Edward Hill told other members of the state House earlier this month. But Hill wasn’t talking about the kind of terror Idaho has historically dealt with. He was talking about a National Rifle Association-backed bill that would allow any public school teacher with an “enhanced” concealed weapons permit to carry a gun in school.

Idaho already allows some employees to carry firearms in schools, but the new legislation, which easily passed the lower chamber, is notable for how much it relaxes the rules: As The Wall Street Journal reported, the bill would also strip local education officials of the power to decide who can carry weapons on campus. Other parts of the bill have drawn concern from law enforcement organizations, education groups, and gun safety advocates. In its current form — which could still be overhauled by the state Senate — there is no requirement for teachers to prove their shooting skill, nor is there a requirement for threat assessment training; the Idaho Sheriffs’ Association told the Journal that a key issue was a clause that could be interpreted as providing legal immunity to any employee who fires a gun at school, even if the shooting was criminal or done recklessly. (Hill, the bill’s sponsor, said he’d let go of the clause to help it get through the Senate.)

The Legislature is also considering a bill pertaining to the traditional consideration of terror — one that “essentially guts” the state’s Terrorist Control Act, Republican Jim Jones, who formerly served as Idaho’s attorney general, told InvestigateWest. The bill would dramatically narrow the state’s definition of “terrorism” to apply only to those associated with federally designated foreign terrorist organizations, meaning that it would be essentially useless against domestic terror groups. 

The legislation, InvestigateWest reported, is the self-proclaimed result of a yearslong push by Eric Parker, the leader of the militia group the Real Three Percenters of Idaho and an armed participant in the 2014 standoff between the government and anti-government militants at Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch. Amy Herzfeld-Copple, director of an extremist watchdog organization, said the apparent origin was worrying: “Why would the Idaho Legislature be listening to and taking policy cues from someone who pointed a rifle at law enforcement?” 

As residents of Coeur d’Alene told NPR in 2022, the circumstances in Idaho these days feel similar to those they confronted during the years the Aryan Nations dominated the area. In other words, they’re used to fighting hate — and they still have the infrastructure and will to continue that fight. That’s a reality that far-right conservatives are confronted with after they move to the state, said Coeur d’Alene City Council Member Christie Wood: “What they find when they get here … are people like us.” 

Quinn Perry, deputy director of the Idaho School Boards Association, expressed a similar attitude about potential changes to Hill’s bill to arm teachers. “Nobody wants to look anti-NRA,” she told The Wall Street Journal. “But what we’re finding is many people with an A-plus rating from the NRA who are very pro-Second Amendment still see the need for a better standard in the bill.”

From Our Team

A roundup of stories from The Trace.

Stray Bullets Are Killing Kids Across the U.S.

In cities across America, children are frequently caught in crossfire and killed. A close look at North Minneapolis tells us more — but not enough — about child gun deaths.

What Has Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson Done About Gun Violence?

Residents feeling the pain of recent shootings say they need help now, while the Mayor’s Office builds out its longer-term plan.
Read more →

What to Know This Week

Business is booming for the active-shooter defense industry, which includes surveillance technologies and training programs for teachers, churchgoers, and other civilians. But as the sector continues to grow, experts question if the strategies these businesses are selling are effective at stopping gun violence. [The Dallas Morning News

St. Louis has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the country, and, particularly in recent months, it’s been criticized over claims of inequitable policing. Now, leaders are questioning why the city’s top cop is receiving a third of his salary, or $100,000 annually, from a nonprofit organization made up of local business leaders. [ProPublica

The first federal trial over a hate crime motivated by gender identity began this week in South Carolina, where a man faces charges for shooting and killing a Black trans woman and then fleeing to New York. [Associated Press

Homicide clearance rates have decreased precipitously over the past few decades; in 2020, only about half of killings led to an arrest and prosecution. New research shows that the drop is particularly pronounced for Black victims, whose cases are less likely to be solved than those of white victims — and the study shows that the disparity is getting worse. [The Guardian

Two police officers and one fire department medic were shot and killed over the weekend in Burnsville, Minnesota, while answering a domestic call about a man who had barricaded himself inside a home with seven children and several guns. Authorities said the suspect, who reportedly killed himself, was the subject of two orders of protection and was barred from owning firearms. [Star Tribune/NBC]

In Memoriam

Crystal Kennebrew, 35, brought people together. As a co-owner of Fatso’s Pub in Gary, Indiana, Kennebrew was known for her kindness and attentiveness to customers; like any great bartender, she remembered people’s orders, never met a stranger, and gave advice freely. Kennebrew was killed last weekend in a mass shooting at an Indianapolis Waffle House. She fostered a sense of community among members of the broader events scene, promoting parties and clubs apart from her own — she died just after she’d stepped up to help a fellow club owner with a large party for the NBA All-Star game weekend. Kennebrew was many people’s favorite bartender in Gary, a childhood friend said, but she “was a mother before anything.” She leaves behind one son. “Everybody loved her,” Kennebrew’s cousin said. “She was a kind, helping person.”

We Recommend

Schools Are Sending More Kids to Psychiatrists Out of Fears of Campus Violence, Prompting Concern From Clinicians

“Psychiatric evaluations are meant to keep students safe. But psychiatrists say schools frequently misuse and misunderstand them.” [The Hechinger Report]

Pull Quote

“If I have a disgruntled employee who has a concealed weapon and can carry in my building, that’s obviously a concern for me.”

— Stefanie Shaw, superintendent of a school district in Idaho that allows some teachers to carry weapons on campus, on a state bill that would strip education officials from approving which employees can bring guns to school, to The Wall Street Journal