By Devin Ferrell
About 150 Idahoans braved rain and cold weather to gather at the steps of the Capitol building on Thursday, Feb. 27 to voice their opinion on Senate Bill (SB) 1254. If passed SB 1254 would give students the right, under certain conditions, to carry concealed weapons on college campuses across the state providing they have a valid concealed carry license.
The controversial bill has received resistance from students, parents, educators, law enforcement entities and school officials from all across Idaho as well as support from Second Amendment advocates, students and gun rights groups.
Cassie Sullivan, a senior majoring in economics and vice president of ASBSU, was a featured speaker against the bill. In an earnest oration to the opponents of the bill gathered, Sullivan addressed the concerns of many students and educators.
“They’re politicizing this issue and they shouldn’t just be voting along party lines instead of considering all of the dimensions,” Sullivan said. “(They are) elected officials and supposed to listen to the people it affects and they haven’t been.”
Some of the dimensions Sullivan outlined in her address included the constitutionality of the bill, fiscal consideration over the next three years and the issue of maintaining safety on campus. Making her intentions clear that it is a nonpartisan argument, Sullivan made clear her stance as a conservative, LDS Republican from eastern Idaho and that she is the ideal constituent lawmakers should be reaching out to.
On the Capitol steps facing Jefferson Street senior Alex Ridgeway and junior Ryan Dudley held homemade signs with “not in my class” and “listen to our school & police leaders” written on them. Ridgeway, a history and political science major, reflected Sullivan’s worries on campus safety
“I don’t particularly feel safe knowing that anybody on campus could have a gun,” Ridgeway said, positing that emotions run high and people have a tendency to overreact in a school setting.
For Dudley, a history major, a concern is what the limit to gun legislation would be.
“I don’t know where it stops,” Dudley said. “If we have guns on campus where is that going? We need to change the way we think, we can’t have this culture of ‘violence is the only answer.’”
Bill opponents were not the only ones to take a stand at the Capitol to have their voices heard. Approximately 30 supporters of the bill came out to show their support with pistols visibly holstered on their hips and signs that read “defend our gun rights” and “demand self defense on campus.”
Among the supporters of the bill was junior Daniel Tellez, a political science major.
“I believe concealed carry is our constitutional right when we step on campus,” Tellez said. “We–at least some of the students here–have some sections we would like to see changed but as a whole we support carrying on campus.”
Tellez was not reticent of the concerns of people who oppose the bill, saying “I do understand it’s a big emotional issue with a lot of people, especially people that have children at campus, so we understand their frustration.”
Tellez still felt that the bill would be necessary to confront crime on campus.
“There is no indication that any bill that would allow campus carry would bring criminals,” Tellez said. “Criminals aren’t waiting around for a bill like this so they can shoot up a campus. We’re advocating in the case that something like this did happen we would have students there to protect us.”
SB 1254 cleared the Idaho Senate and is tentatively scheduled to be read by the House tomorrow, Feb. 28. If approved in the House the bill will move to the desk of Govenor Butch Otter (R) for final approval or veto. Until then, advocates and detractors can only let the legislature know their side.