BOISE – Senate Bill 1254, allowing concealed weapons on state public university and college campuses, passed through the full House by a 50-19 vote Thursday — following almost an hour and a half debate.
The bill now moves to Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter for final consideration.
Co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Judy Boyle, introduced the bill to the House by reading the language of Idaho’s Second Amendment and explaining the importance of the Constitution.
“The bill does not change our Constitution, or do anything with open carry at this time,” Boyle said. “It does set gun regulations on campus.”
Boyle said the bill includes information describing the mandatory methods of teaching while working toward an enhanced concealed carry permit. Boyle said online instruction is strictly prohibited, and all instruction must take place in person.
“We decided we were going to occupy the entire field with firearms and we made the exception of the colleges,” Boyle said of allowing colleges to create their own firearm regulations. “But they didn’t do anything, except restrict a person’s right to have a concealed or open-carry weapon.”
Boyle said 90 percent of police officers and first-responders, who took part in a poll, believe casualties are decreased if armed citizens are on site. Without armed citizens, Boyle said it can take minutes for police to respond to a campus call.
“Minutes are far, far too long — even two minutes is too long,” Boyle said.
Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said according to Idaho Carry Open and Concealed, the average response time for police is 5 minutes, 49 seconds.
Perry said giving law-abiding citizens the right to carry concealed weapons on campus is a step in the right direction to improving safety on public campuses.
“It disputes the argument that possession by law abiding citizens contribute to violent crimes — they don’t,” Perry said. “They do just that — they abide by the law. Security on college campuses is an issue in itself — unarmed security guards don’t do a lot.”
Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, said the bill represents a confusion of too-broad data that doesn’t apply to Idaho’s educational environment.
“This bill is extremely bad policy and I’m hoping it will be rejected,” Rubel said.
She said creators of the bill have yet to clue into the needs of stakeholders when it comes to fiscal, educational and moral impact.
“No real studies were conducted in respect to Idaho education … I don’t think we can really attribute a drop in crime to the introduction of guns on campus,” Rubel said. “There’s no data to support that.”
Rubel said Idaho’s colleges and universities have released an estimated annual cost incurred by increasing security. She said it would cost approximately $4.4 million annually to increase and maintain what campuses deem necessary to handle the increased number of weapons.
“This extra expense we’re saddling our colleges and universities with,” Rubel said. “We would be giving them this fiscal kick in the shins — where are we going to find this money?”
Rubel said the fiscal note in the bill — which the state’s cost to universities and colleges said is minimal — expresses how key administrators were left out, because the fiscal note would have carried a much larger number had they been involved.
“This bill strikes a financial blow at our colleges and universities, but it also strikes a moral blow at them,” Rubel said.
She said students, the next generation of lawmakers, have opinions that legislators need to listen to.
“Students — these are the people who would actually be hit with a bullet,” Rubel said. “These are the people who have spoken to us and said they have been deeply, deeply in opposition of the bill. These are the people that are the closest to the facts, the closest to the universities.”
While there continues to be disagreement on what specific “open carry versus concealed carry” language in the bill dictates, Rubel said the bill is vague and lacks strong enough opposition to allowing students to carry firearms openly on university and college grounds.
“This bill puts us in the position of being the first state in the country to allow open carry on campuses,” Rubel said. “Don’t view this bill as a Second Amendment (argument), view it as a confrontation on how we view education in this state.”
Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, said the bill prohibits students and faculty from protecting themselves in more ways than just walking to and from school.
“It’s about an individual’s rights all day long,” Monks said. “If we’re not allowed to have guns on campus at all, we’re effectively saying they can’t protect themselves all day long … I don’t think the Constitution said your right to bear arms was only on the weekends.”
Rep. JoAn E. Wood, R-Rigby, said the conversation on gun control has reached higher volumes for some time — across Idaho and the U.S.
“Any of you that have tried to buy ammunition know what’s going on — there’s a certain feeling across this country there needs to be much more control on arms,” Wood said. “We’ve had some very heart-rendering reports of this happening in our state.”
Rep. Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, said the bill is a test of personal and public safety, as well as what lawmakers are willing to limit in terms of firearms. He said it also denies administrators the ability to make decisions regarding campus safety, but also entrusts those decisions to the Legislature — the leaders elected by the people of Idaho.
Following the bill’s public hearing Feb. 28 — which had a majority of non-supportive testimony from stakeholders and community members — in front of the House State Affairs Committee, the bill was moved to the third reading calendar for debate by a vote of 11-3.
But as the date for the full House public hearing drew closer, two events took place changing what was the expected journey of the bill.
Emily Walton, organizer of the newly developed Coalition to Keep Guns Off Campus, delivered a petition containing more than 3,000 signatures of Idahoans in opposition of S.B. 1254 to Speaker of the House Scott Bedke Wednesday.
Members of the new coalition include the State Board of Education, the associated student organizations of UI, Lewis-Clark State College, Boise State University and North Idaho College, as well as the faculty senate organizations from UI, LCSC, BSU and NIC.
The bill also has a new supporter, the Idaho Sheriff’s Association, as announced Wednesday in a press conference at the Capitol. Following a poll of the association’s members, the group announced support of the bill.
Adams County Sheriff Ryan Zollman said the main reason members were in support of the bill was to retain the right of legal citizens to carry firearms in public — the basic parameters included in a concealed weapons permit.
The bill will now be sent to Otter’s desk for consideration. He has said he supports the bill.
Chloe Rambo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @CRchloerambo