Boise high schoolers draft gun control legislation to protect minors

Prohibited items list on Boise State campus
Photo by Claire Keener

Boise High students are currently drafting legislation that would change the process for minors to possess firearms in Idaho, as reported by the Idaho Statesman. 

Kate Stevens, a senior at Boise High, told the Statesman that high schoolers should be worried about their education when they go to school, not losing their lives.

In a country with regular school shootings, most recently the Oxford High shooting that left four students dead, safety in schools is a national concern that centers the polarizing issue of gun control.

State Sen. Melissa Wintrow is advising the high schoolers in their efforts, but thinks that any kind of gun law increasing limitations or requirements are not likely to pass in the state.

“There’s a group of folks around that are paranoid, in my estimation, that somebody’s going to take their guns,” Wintrow said.

The students’ goal is to require minors to complete an in-person training with an approved instructor and submit an application to the sheriff’s office before they can purchase a firearm. Their aim is to reduce suicides and incidents of gun violence.

While both sides of gun debates want to reduce violence, arguments generally fall in two camps. Some believe conceal-carrying your firearm in public offers protection, others argue with fewer guns there would be less escalation and violence in volatile situations.

“The presence of a gun in a chaotic situation demands that someone use it,” said Greg Hampikian, a professor of biology and criminal justice at Boise State and director of the Idaho Innocence Project.

Wintrow says in her time serving on the state Senate, gun laws have continued to loosen. In 2019, the Idaho Legislature expanded concealed carry, removing the requirement for a permit after 21 years of age.

“I think the legislature has gotten radically conservative towards guns, and so they basically moved us to a constitutional carry state,” Wintrow said.

The term ‘constitutional carry’ essentially means that individuals with or without permits can legally concealed carry a handgun.

Wintrow tried to pass a bill in 2018 that would prevent Idahoans with misdemeanor domestic violence convictions from owning guns, which would align Idaho with existing federal law, but the bill did not pass the House.

Boise State allowed persons with enhanced concealed carry permits to carry guns on campus in 2014, which prompted Hampikian to write an Op-Ed in The New York Times entitled, “When May I Shoot a Student,” illustrating the morally complicated situations that might arise if guns are brought to campus by students, faculty or staff.

Prohibited items list on Boise State campus
[Photo of a prohibited items sign that is posted in certain areas on Boise State campus]
Photo by Claire Keener | The Arbiter

“I think it’s farcical to say that having all these guns everywhere has no effect on our safety,” Hampikian said.

John Koenig, president of the College Republicans and a senior studying computer science at Boise State, says that, since Idaho is a constitutional carry state and Boise State is public property, the on-campus restrictions are too intense.

“I think it’s quite outlandish that you’re allowed to concealed carry inside the Capitol building, but you can’t concealed carry on campus,” Koenig said.

Idaho had 255 gun injury deaths in 2019, at a rate of 14.2 per capita, according to data compiled by the CDC.

Where and how guns can legally be carried remains a divisive national issue. The Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal has centered debate around self-defense laws that allow the use of deadly force, some of which allow gun violence as a first-resort measure, like Idaho’s current laws.

According to Wintrow, the extreme politicization of gun control has also contributed to the difficulties in passing any restrictive legislation in Idaho, with moderate Senate members potentially feeling like they can’t vote for bills that may restrict access to guns without risking their seats in the next election.

“I think part of the fight is trying to find people that can walk towards you, so I try to negotiate and collaborate all the time,” Wintrow said.

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