The Senate State Affairs Committee voted Monday Feb. 13 to approve Senate Bill 1254, which would allow citizens and students with specialized permits to carry firearms on Idaho’s college campuses.
SB 1254 will now head to the full senate, where it will be considered further by legislators.
Earlier that morning, Boise residents gathered to give testimony regarding the implications of the proposed bill. National Rifle Association lobbyist Dakota Brooke spoke in support of SB 1254, arguing that students would be safer in the event of a shooting if concealed permit weapons were allowed on campuses.
“Would opponents of this argument rather no one had a weapon to defend themselves in this situation? The shooter at Virginia Tech had nine minutes in which he locked the doors to the engineering hall and wreaked havoc on individuals,” Brooke said.
Opponents of the bill cited the danger of mixing common college activities like drinking with loaded firearms. Brooke said a portion of the bill would penalize those caught intoxicated with a firearm in their possession by revoking concealed weapons permits for three years.
Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson expressed frustration regarding the handling of the meeting, criticizing Senate State Affairs Committee chair Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa) for allowing a large time allotment for Brooke while cutting others short despite calls from Sen. Elliot Werk (D-Boise) requesting an extension allowing for further testimony.
Although lobbying groups were asked to testify, none of the police chiefs and law enforcement leaders were afforded time to speak; some had travelled from as far as Moscow. Shortly after the hearing, Masterson released a statement condemning McKenzie’s actions.
“Where is our democracy today when police leaders directly responsible for developing policy and training for your safety are effectively silenced by the Chair of a committee who introduced the bill himself?” Masterson asked.
The Idaho Board of Education’s Chief Communication and Legislative Affairs Officer Marilyn Whitney testified against the bill saying gun regulation should be left in charge of individual campuses whose administrators best know how to assess and handle security risks.
“The board feels strongly that SB 1254 takes away an important management tool necessary to maintain an environment conducive to learning,” Whitney said. “This management tool allows each of the campus administrators to rely on the trained law enforcement professionals they hired to help them develop safety policies that provide the best experience possible for students, faculty, staff and visitors.”