The girl, Bailey Nielsen, was accompanied by her grandfather, Charles Nielsen, who spoke to a House panel at the Idaho Statehouse in support of legislation that would allow visitors to Idaho who can legally possess firearms – but not necessarily do – to carry a concealed handgun in urban areas.
Charles Nielsen, 58, and his 11-year-old granddaughter, Bailey Nielsen, testify before a House panel at the Idaho Statehouse on Monday. Feb. 24, 2020 in Boise, Idaho.
“Bailey is carrying a loaded AR-15,” Charles Nielsen told lawmakers. “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.”
He said Bailey was an example of someone who could responsibly handle a gun and lawmakers should extend that to nonresidents.
“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.”
Republican Rep. Christy Zito, who is proposing the measure opposed by the three Democrats on the House State Affairs Committee, said the legislation is intended to clear up confusion about state gun laws.
Idaho permits residents 18 and older to carry a concealed handgun within city limits in the state without a permit following a new law that went into place last summer. The legislation would extend that to any legal U.S. resident or armed services member.
“I stand here before you today as a mother and grandmother who has had to use a firearm to defend their child,” Zito said, recounting when 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.”
Opponents say allowing teenagers to carry a concealed weapon without a permit within city limits could lead to shootings.
“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, an organization that seeks public safety measures to protect people from gun violence. “That’s a common-sense policy.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.