After listening to several hours of testimony today at the State Capitol, the Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted 11- 3 to approve the bill permitting concealed weapons on the state’s public colleges and universities. Glenn Mosley reports. (3:32)
The bill in question is Senate 1254, which would allow retired law enforcement personnel and individuals with enhanced concealed weapon permits to carry firearms on Idaho’s public college and university campuses. It would forbid guns in residence halls and at large public venues seating more than 1,000 people. The bill has already passed the Idaho State Senate.
The bill’s sponsor is State Senator Curtis McKenzie of Nampa:
Curt McKenzie: “In Idaho, when we wrote our Constitution, we put in a declaration of rights. Article one, section 11 is part of that; I have quoted the language there that is Idaho’s principle with related to the right of the people to keep and bear arms. I think that when we make laws, and we consider what good law is, the Constitution should be our guiding principle. It’s not just the limit of what government can do, but it should also guide the policies that we set within that framework.”
Supporters of the legislation argue that the issues are liberty and public safety: that citizens have the right to bear arms, that citizens have the right to defend and protect themselves, and that citizens should not lose their rights when they step onto a public college campus.
Kelby Monks is a criminal justice major at Boise State University, and he testified in favor of the bill today:
Kelby Monks: “And then also, another issue that people were bringing up was that the police would not be able to identify who the good guy was and the bad guy was and that it would be risky for an individual who stopped a shooter to be mistakenly taken for the shooter. And to that I would say that I would sacrifice myself and that I would rather die and be shot and by a police officer than have an entire auditorium of my classmates killed and murdered.”
Under current policy, the state’s colleges and universities are allowed to regulate guns on their campuses and guns are not allowed on any of the public campuses.
Opponents of the bill included David Duke, police chief in Moscow, home to the University of Idaho:
David Duke: “Our department assigns officers for safety at major entertainment and sporting events. We routinely respond to fights around the Kibbie Dome during these events. Inserting a firearm into this confrontation will lead to injuries or even death to those involved and also to innocent bystanders.”
Idaho State Board of Education member Rod Lewis also spoke forcefully against passage of the bill, asking what the problem was that the legislation was trying to solve. He said the bill is not about concealed carry but open carry. Lewis said the bill as drafted would allow the open carry of firearms. He said permitting open carry of firearms would have a chilling effect on the state’s colleges and universities.
The State Board itself said in a letter to the committee that it believes the bill would allow open carry anywhere on college campuses, including classrooms, dormitories, and event centers. Kevin Satterlee, general counsel for Boise State University, testified that the bill was ambiguous on the issue of open carry.
The bill’s sponsor, Senator McKenzie, says the bill does not reference open carry.
The discussion on open carry and concealed carry, and how the bill might impact each, continued throughout the day’s testimony.
The State Board of Education further argued in the letter to the committee that the bill is an unfunded mandate that could cost the universities up to eight million dollars because they would have to make changes in security training and policies.
The bill now moves on to the full House for further consideration. Should it pass there, it would still need to be signed by Idaho Governor Butch Otter.
I’m Glenn Mosley reporting.
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