Idaho Senate backs right to carry guns on campus
Public colleges and universities in Idaho can no longer make their own rules when it comes to guns on campus.
The Idaho Senate voted Tuesday to grant college students the right to possess firearms on school grounds. It passed with a vote of 25-10 and guarantees one's Second Amendment right over the existing gun regulations of public universities.
The bill exempts dormitories and indoor venues seating more than 1,000 people and requires possession of Idaho’s new enhanced concealed weapons permit to carry a gun on campus. The permit is given to individuals 21 and over, and to those who have completed an eight-hour training course.
The legislation is expected to pass in the House and be signed into law by Gov. Butch Otter, who has already expressed support.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa), defended the legislation: spokesman.com
“The end result of this is that qualifying faculty or students at our universities will no longer be prevented from exercising a fundamental right to self-defense and constitutional right to keep and bear arms.”
Though the legislature voted with a clear majority in support of the bill, some Republican lawmakers were ambivalent, saying they were torn between two conservative ideals – local control and the right to bear arms.
But many have been vocally opposed to the bill, including college presidents, police chiefs and the state board of education.
Sen. Michelle Stennett (D-Ketchum) raised concerns that guns on campus may escalate arguments and would strain finite university resources from the additional costs to security.
Brad Childers, chapter president of the Canyon County Fraternal Order of Police, said allowing concealed weapons could impact police emergency response to situations like school shootings. In addition to fighting the contents of the bill, many were upset by what happened at the committee hearing for the legislation on Feb. 12. McKenzie called upon a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association to present the bill for 40 minutes of the 3-hour hearing and did not ask police or student dissenters to speak.
Canyon County Sheriff Kieran Donahue said: "These are the people that are going to be responding first hand, and to me the democratic process was left out,"
The precedent for this decision was set in Florida, where an appeals court ruled public colleges and universities lack the legal right to make rules that override the state regarding guns on campus. The first-of-its-kind ruling came from a case challenging a North Florida University's decision to ban students from keeping guns in their vehicles.
Dissenters felt the ruling left public institutions powerless in dealing with campus safety and stripped universities of their authority. Some questioned whether state override would apply to other university rules, such as alcohol bans in certain spaces.
The court responded that "restricting recreational activities is a far cry from restricting a fundamental, constitutional right to keep and bear arms for self-defense."