BOISE, Idaho (AP) â€” Idaho lawmakers were expected to pass a bill Friday that could allow people to pack guns on college campuses, despite opposition to the measure from multiple police chiefs and the leaders of all eight of the state’s public colleges.
The legislation, which passed the Senate 25-10 earlier this month, allows retired law enforcement officers and those with Idaho’s new enhanced concealed carry permit to bring their firearms onto campus. Concealed weapons would still be barred from dormitories, stadiums and concert halls.
If it passes, Idaho would join six other states with provisions â€” either from lawmakers or dictated by court decisions â€” that allow concealed carry on campus: Colorado, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Utah is the only state with a specific law that forbids universities from banning concealed carry at any of its 10 public institutions.
Students and professors were among hundreds who protested against the bill on the Statehouse steps on Thursday. Testimony was ongoing in the House State Affairs Committee, and a vote in the full House was slated for Friday afternoon.
The bill’s authors may not have intended to allow open carry on campus, but he that’s the way it will likely be legally interpreted, State Board of Education member Rod Lewis said.
“It is not a concealed weapons bill, it’s an open weapons carry bill,” he said. “Can you imagine the classroom where a student enters the room and lays down a gun on the desk?”
Most students confronted with such a scenario, he conjectured, would likely leave the class out of fear for their own safety.
Despite Lewis’ assessment, Assistant Chief Deputy Attorney General Brian Kane told the committee that colleges, under the legislation, likely can still block open carry by setting their own firearms policy.
Republican Sen. Curt McKenzie of Nampa, the bill’s sponsor, said Friday morning he was surprised by the extent of the opposition. He contends he addressed all the concerns from universities and colleges that sank a previous version of the bill in 2011.
Though the majority of those signed up to testify opposed the legislation, several people came to the Statehouse to back it.
Kelby Monks, a Boise State student and son of committee member Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, said carrying a weapon in a classroom could stop a would-be mass shooter quickly â€” even while police were still minutes away.
“It does not take more than 30 seconds to empty out an entire clip,” he said, adding that concerns about law enforcement confusing good Samaritans with criminal shooters during a crisis situation are overblown. “I’d rather die and be shot by a police officer than have an entire auditorium of my classmates killed,” he said.
And Bryan Lovell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police and a Bonneville Sherriff’s deputy who favors arming law-abiding citizens on campus, said responding officers would likely have a good idea of who they were up against before arriving at the scene.
“Cops don’t just come in guns a-blazing, shoot first ask questions later,” he said.