An 11-year-old girl with a loaded AR-15 rifle accompanied her grandfather to an Idaho state legislative committee hearing on Monday, drawing praise from some on social media but garnering little reaction from legislators.
Bailey Nielsen stood silently with the weapon slung over her right shoulder and the barrel pointed to the floor as her grandfather, Charles Nielsen, spoke before the House State Affairs Committee supporting legislation that would allow out-of-state residents who can legally possess firearms to carry a concealed handgun within urban city limits.
“Bailey is carrying a loaded AR-15,” Charles Nielsen testified at the hearing. “People live in fear, terrified of that which they do not understand. She’s been shooting since she was 5 years old. She got her first deer with this weapon at 9. She carries it responsibly. She knows how not to put her finger on the trigger. We live in fear in a society that is fed fear on a daily basis.”
The committee voted to send the legislation to the full House.
Firearms are not uncommon sights in the Idaho statehouse, particularly when gun legislation is debated.
Bailey Nielsen’s appearance with the AR-15 drew little reaction from members on the legislative committee, and the girl’s grandfather faced no questions from legislators about his testimony or his granddaughter, The Associated Press reported.
Charles Nielsen told legislators that Bailey was an example of a person who could responsibly carry a weapon, and said the law passed last year that gave Idaho residents 18 years and older permission to carry a concealed handgun within urban city limits should be extended to non-residents.
The bill would expand the concealed handgun permission to any legal U.S. resident or armed services member.
“When they come to Idaho, they should be able to carry concealed, because they carry responsibly,” he said. “They’re law-abiding citizens. It’s the criminal we have to worry about.”
The story gained some traction on Twitter, with pro-gun commenters praising Bailey and saying she and her grandfather should be invited to the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference.
— Gray Wolf (@graywolf442) February 25, 2020
Not everyone was as supportive of the gesture, however.
“This is insane,” one commenter tweeted in response to the story.
“Child abuse,” tweeted another.
Gun rights in Idaho
Republican Rep. Christy Zito proposed the measure being discussed at the Idaho capital on Monday.
Zito said it was intended to eliminate confusion about state gun laws. Supporters said it would give individuals the ability to defend themselves. Three Democrats on the committee opposed the bill.
The 70-member Idaho State House of Representatives is comprised of 56 Republicans and 14 Democrats, all representing areas in an around the capital of Boise and nearby Pocatello. Boise is the most populated city in the state with more than 200,000 residents., according to the 2010 census The next largest city is Nampa, located just to the west of Boise, with more than 81,000.
Idaho has a population of just under 1.8 million.
Zito said she introduced the bill because she has used a firearm to defend her daughter.
“I stand here before you today as a mother and grandmother who has had to use a firearm to defend their child,” Zito said.
She explained how two men once approached her vehicle with her daughter inside.
“Even though I didn’t have to pull the trigger, just the fact that they could see it, and they knew that I had it, was the determining factor,” Zito said.
Gun-control lobbying groups opposed the measure.
“The vast majority of states require that a person get a permit before carrying a concealed gun in public,” said Diana David of Moms Demand Action. “That’s a common-sense policy.”