Sen. Curt McKenzie (R-Nampa) is responsible for the creation of SB 1254, the controversial bill which would allow individuals with enhanced permits to carry concealed guns on Idaho college campuses.
The bill now rests in the Senate where McKenzie thinks it is likely to pass and be signed into law by the governor.
Hours of public testimony, demonstrations and condemnation from Boise Police Chief Mike Masterson have followed the bill through the legislature creating a heated debate regarding the role of guns on college campuses.
Sen. McKenzie recently spoke with The Arbiter about SB 1254 and the controversy surrounding it.
Q. Were you raised in a family that hunted?
“No. I was raised in Montgomery County, Md., just north of Washington D.C. so there wasn’t a lot of hunting there.”
Q. Are you a hunter now? Is that something you enjoy?
“I have been hunting, but it’s not something I regularly do. The issue (SB 1254) is important for me just because it’s a constitutional right that we have under the Second Amendment and then Article One, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution.”
Q. Do you currently possess a concealed weapons permit in Idaho?
“I do have guns; I don’t have a concealed carry permit.”
Q. Aren’t individuals already allowed to carry weapons on campus under Idaho’s constitution?
“Yes. That’s under statute as well. By statute, there are only a few places where we by law restrict the ability to carry. We allowed the universities to regulate (guns), but they don’t have statutory authority. They can set policy but they can’t enforce them other than asking people to leave. Over faculty, students and staff; they can take action against them. But otherwise, if you are just on campus, they couldn’t do anything.”
Q. Were you surprised by the negative reaction by university presidents, the board of education and Chief Masterson toward SB 1254?
“I was surprised by the extent of their objections because after HB 222 had passed the House in 2011 and had come to the Senate State Affairs, I really tried to incorporate all the concerns that were expressed then. I understand they (Boise Police) don’t like limitations on their ability to administer on campus. I was surprised by how strongly they were opposed to it.”
Q. Did that in any way motivate you to consider rewriting the bill?
“It’s moving forward in the House now, the way it came out of committee so I don’t think there will be changes to it. The right given in that bill is very limited. I don’t know if we could make it any smaller and basically have any right to carry on campus.”
Q. Have you had any personal correspondence with Boise Police Chief Masterson regarding the bill?
“No, I haven’t. I have seen the stuff he has written but I haven’t personally talked with him.”
Q. If the bill is passed, do you think there will be any future revisions to protect universities from liability?
“I don’t know what future legislatures would do. Given that other states have similar laws already and haven’t had issues with it, I don’t think we would. Future legislatures could always amend it or do whatever they wanted.”
Q. There were comments by Jon Uda, executive director of Campus Security and Police Services at Boise State, who said SB 1254 would cost the university $2 million a year in additional security measures. Do you agree with that estimate?
“I don’t. It seems counter-intuitive to me because Mr. Uda testified that there are two categories with campus guns. He said there are retired law enforcement who can conceal carry and then he said there are people who carry against their policy. What he is saying is that, ‘we don’t have metal detectors, we don’t have an armed security force on campus, but we are safe.’ It’s not intuitive to me why if you added enhanced carry holders to that, why it changes everything. So now you’re no longer safe unless you close down the campus and have armed security guards everywhere.”
Q. What would you say to students and faculty at Boise State who are opposed to the bill because they feel guns on campus would be a threat to their safety?
“I would say first we have had it in other states. Utah has had it for a number of years. It hasn’t made the campus life there less safe. And I would say that people who choose to go through the enhanced carry process, or if they are retired law enforcement and feel safer having some limited carry on campus, I’m all for that. Because when you get down to it, it’s publicly owned land and we have a strong constitutional protection in the Idaho constitution and I just think we should have a policy that is in line with that direction.”
Q. There has been some criticism about the requirements to obtain an enhanced weapons permit. Do you think current standards are adequate?
“I think that it’s a pretty high standard and it’s pretty new to the state. We put it in (enhanced training) so that we could have reciprocity with other states that have a high concealed carry standard. So we tied it to that rather than have the general carry standards. I don’t know how many students or faculty will go through that but I think it’s good that they at least have the opportunity to do it if they want.”