PRESTON — Rep. Chad Christensen (R-Ammon), who also represents Teton County, pushed back on being labelled a "gun nut" as he visited Preston on a stop in the ISAA Freedom Tour on Wednesday evening.
The event was a joint effort between the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and Rep. Christensen to discuss abolishing ballot initiatives, red flag laws, and other topics related to gun legislation in the state.
Christensen spoke about being labeled a, “psycho gun-nut,” at the event and explained that the Second Amendment affects other constitutional rights. He spoke about his disappointment with his “school-carry” bill.
Christensen said the committee Chairman Rep. Steve Harris received pressure to kill the school-carry bill from the Sheriffs Association and Moms Demand Action — an organization wanting stricter gun laws to protect against gun violence. He said the bill would have allowed school employees to carry a handgun with an enhanced conceal and carry permit on school grounds.
“To me that’s not defending the Constitution,” Christensen said, adding that he refused to speak to Moms Demand Action at Harris’ request. “There’s no point in speaking to an organization that’s completely against your right to carry a firearm.”
Christensen has been in the headlines this year for calling for the boycott of a Boise restaurant whose owner told him his open-carry gun was making customers and staff uncomfortable; defending Teton High School's former "Redskins" mascot; and calling out a sign which he said implied residents may not be allowed to carry weapons at the Eastern Idaho State Fair.
Greg Pruett, president of the ISAA, said the tour is a way to reach those outside of the Boise area and demonstrate to gun owners that they are an “organization willing to go anywhere to fight for their Second Amendment rights.”
“Idaho is beginning to change,” Pruett said to the group. “And probably not in a direction that most of you are going to be comfortable with.”
Pruett said gun rights are being “decimated” in states like California, Washington and Oregon, as well as Colorado and Nevada, largely in part to myriad ballot initiatives in those states. The ISAA is proposing getting rid of ballot initiatives — a task Pruett admitted is nearly impossible.
“They have figured it out,” Pruett said. “Ballot initiatives are their tool to push this stuff.”
He said ballot initiatives are a way to circumvent representative government, and not truly a right of the people.
“This is a tool,” Pruett said. “The initiative process was put in our state constitution during the progressive era by progressives.”
Pruett said due to mainstream media bias, lack of funding and having too few volunteers, conservatives are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to counteracting or pushing their own ballot initiatives. Pruett said conservatives don’t lend themselves to mobilizing for an agenda like their political opponents because they want to be left alone and their rights are already in hand.
For Pruett, the barrier for conservatives to get politically involved is a mental one.
“No activist organization that I know of has figured out how to get around that barrier,” Pruett said, “of voters, conservatives being — quite honestly — lazy and apathetic in defending their freedoms.”
The tour’s stop in Preston was the ninth in an 11-date tour across the state of Idaho.