College Presidents oppose gun bill

College Presidents oppose gun bill

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Eryn Johnson

College presidents met at the Capitol to discuss a new bill that could allow firearms to be carried by students on Feb. 4. The presidents unanimously agreed to oppose the bill.

Presidents from Idaho discussed the implications suggested by the new legislation. The bill, Safer Environment for College and University Residents and Employees (SECURE), would override current university rules, allowing firearms to be carried by certain students on
campuses.

According to the bill, students must meet certain requirements before they are eligible for the heightened concealed weapons permit. They must be 21 or older, take an eight hour training class, pass a background check and fire nearly 100 rounds in a live fire training.

College presidents agreed that SECURE would create more conflict than it might resolve.

“The bill raised a unanimous concern,” said President Don Burnett of the University of Idaho, and chair of the State Board of Education.

He believes the bill undermines the authority of local law enforcement while undercutting the universities best judgment.

SECURE’s aim is to improve safety, but the presidents argue that adding guns to the equation would create safety issues.

“Increasing the number of guns would increase problems and that creates conflict,” added President Bob Kustra of Boise State University. “The minute there is a conflict there will be someone, an armed police officer, on any building on campus within thirty seconds to two minutes. Our responsibility is to safety.”

That safety  might be compromised if a shooting ever took place on an Idaho campus.

“There is little evidence to suggest that safety would be enhanced (by carrying a weapon),” Burnett said.

The major concern the presidents had with the bill was a lack of data. Currently there is little to no data to suggest whether safety would be increased—in fact the contrary may be true.

In an email Tuesday evening Kustra (BSU) brought this concern to the attention of students, faculty and staff.

“We can find no recorded incident in which a victim—or a spectator—of a violent crime on a campus has prevented a crime by brandishing a weapon,” the email stated. “Weapons on campus may, in fact, lead to an acceleration of conflict in stressful situations.”

The email reminded students of the role local law enforcement plays in campus security. It also asked them to consider future crises on campus.

Kustra and the college officials raised these questions at the meeting and in the email; could law enforcement confuse shooter and victim and injure someone trying to help, or injure an innocent bystander? Could a student with the license make the same mistake? Who would be liable?

The legislation is scheduled for a hearing Feb. 12, where two hours of testimony will be allowed before the committee will vote. If the committee votes in favor, the bill will be put before the senate.

Testimony will give Idaho college presidents the opportunity to raise their concerns and disapproval of the bill. The presidents will either testify in person or assign representatives to testify for them.

In Kustra’s email, he asks students and faculty to contact their senators in regard to the bill.

A similar bill was discussed in 2011; the bill passed in the House but it failed to pass before the Senate.

College of Southern Idaho (CSI) President Jeff Fox recognizes that some students may feel that denying them access to firearms on campus restricts their second amendment rights. CSI conducted a poll in 2011 regarding the issue finding faculty, staff and students to be almost unanimous against allowing guns on campus.

“It is a difficult context when talking about higher education,” Burnett said. “We are looking at the safety of students who pack firearms and safety of those who don’t.”

 

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