ACLU: Idaho Capitol security video should not prompt access restriction, urges public comment

A security video showing a man inspecting representatives' desks, taking photos of desktops and reaching into a waste bin for a document does not justify changes in public access to the Capitol, says the ACLU of Idaho.

Idaho State Police say the man, who was wearing a handgun in a holster at his waist, committed no crime during his Jan. 10 visit to the House floor.

But ISP, the Department of Administration and legislative leadership are considering changes in public access. In the near-term, the House and Senate chambers have been closed between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays and all weekend.

"The Capitol is and should remain open to the public and all Idahoans should be encouraged to exercise their First Amendment rights," says ACLU spokesman Leo Morales in a news release Tuesday. "Any regulations or rules promulgated will affect all Idahoans, not just the individual in this one video and should be carefully crafted as not to trample on the First, Second – or any amendment within the Constitution."

The ACLU news release follows:

STATE CAPITOL BUILDING SHOULD REMAIN ACCESSIBLE TO ALL IDAHOANS

Surveillance video of armed man on the Capitol floor should not lead to new restrictions on rights

Boise, ID — The Capitol surveillance video showing a gentleman touring the Capitol while wearing a gun, looking at legislator’s desk and reaching into the trash has captured the attention of legislators, media and has entered the debate about rules governing the Capitol. An edited version of the video was initially played during the House State Affairs Committee on January 22nd by Department of Administration Director Teresa Luna while she testified about the rules governing the State Capitol and Capitol Mall area. The ACLU has since reviewed the entire 11 minute video.

The ACLU is troubled that state officials are considering additional restrictions on constituent access to the Statehouse. We urge officials to first articulate exactly the issues of concern. The ACLU upholds an individuals’ right to privacy and if the Department wishes to address privacy concerns, it can do so by making shredders available, as well as secure places for storage on the floor. The Capitol is and should remain open to the public and all Idahoans should be encouraged to exercise their First Amendment rights. There seems to be some concern with the individual in the video carrying a sidearm. If this is the issue for legislators and the Department of Administration, that problem needs to be articulated. Any new rules governing the use of the Capitol – especially ones that might propose restrictions to the First Amendment, Second Amendment or any other civil rights should be open to public comment so Idahoans and the ACLU can have their voices heard.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of Idahoans not shown on any video that utilize the Capitol during the legislative session and beyond to engage in the democratic process. Any regulations or rules promulgated will affect all Idahoans, not just the individual in this one video and should be carefully crafted as not to trample on the First, Second – or any amendment within the Constitution. Among those affected will be the Boy Scouts filmed in the video who presumably toured the Capitol to deepen their understanding of our system of government, one that should remain open and transparent to the people.

Leo Morales
Public Education/Communications Coordinator
ACLU of Idaho & ACLU of Idaho Foundation

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My question to legislators

If this man had not been carrying a gun, would they have been so upset?
Tours go through the chambers all the time and people see what is on legislators' desks. What was specifically troubling about this guy?

Personally, I found the fact that he was taking photos of their personal items very creepy....not to mention that he appeared to be taking photos of the children as well.

What bothered legislators so much? If it was the gun, then let"s focus on that....don't limit access to everyone else because on one creepy gun owner.