Idaho’s congressional delegation has steadfastly opposed new limits on the personal ownership of weapons of war despite the pile of bodies of innocent adults and children that grows every year.
In Idaho, that opposition is based on a mythology of the American West that grows more destructive with every year that passes.
On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would have banned the sale of assault weapons to anyone under the age of 21, along with large-capacity ammo clips. Research has shown that mass shooters are generally male and under the age of 21, an age at which humans exhibit more impulse control.
The bill passed on a mostly party-line vote and will almost certainly not survive a Senate vote with opposition from Idaho’s senators all but guaranteed.
Idaho Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch understand that Idaho gun owners fear that any new regulations on firearms will create a slippery slope leading to bans on all firearms, including those used for hunting and self-defense. In balancing the risk of continued massacres of defenseless school children like the 19 killed in Uvalde, Texas, against the risk of being unable to defend themselves, self-defense wins.
It’s easy to argue that this hardline position exists because a mass murder on Uvalde’s scale hasn’t happened in Idaho, but the opposition runs deeper than that. It is based on the deeply ingrained myth of the self-sufficient Westerner who singlehandedly faced down and carved a life from a once hostile wilderness, and just wants to be left alone.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Western settlers didn’t come one at a time. They came in groups. If settlers had come alone, Native Americans wouldn’t have lost control of the vast lands they once inhabited.
Not only that, but Western settlement required massive support from the federal government. Idaho lands once were part of a disputed Oregon Territory that the British ceded to the U.S. in 1846. The state of Idaho wasn’t created until 1890.
Huge federally financed dams on the Snake River and others made Idaho the agricultural force that it is today. The dams also provide Idaho with electricity.
No matter how determined, farmers with plows, shovels and the income from meager crops grown without flood irrigation couldn’t have made the desert bloom.
Federal support for Idaho continues today.
In 2019, federal funds constituted 32.8% of state revenue, according to research by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Imagine the state if one-third of its public schools, highways and health services disappeared.
Too many believe that this federal revenue is made up solely of taxes paid by Idahoans that come back to the state. This is simply incorrect.
The website WalletHub reported this year that Idaho gets back $1.69 for every dollar residents pay in federal taxes. Idaho ranked 20th of the states in dependence on federal money.
Idaho politicians should temper flaming political rhetoric that makes the federal government out be an enemy against which we must literally arm ourselves with the reality that the so-called enemy is really the hand that feeds us.
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