What students should know about firearms on campus

Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Students could, and likely do, walk past concealed weapon carriers everyday. This is true for Idaho as a whole, and Boise State’s campus is no different.

Boise State University lays out its gun rules for any students or staff that want to carry a firearm. This clear-cut set of rules combined with the staff and students’ reciprocity has created a campus with no reported gun violence.

These regulations were created after the passing of the campus carry statute, signed by former Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter on May 21, 2014. Senate Bill 1254 applies to all public colleges and universities such as Boise State  and Idaho State University, but not to private institutions such as Northwest Nazarene University.

Gun violence occurred on a few occasions near Boise State, but never on campus.

Boise State University Policy #12080 defines rules for carrying firearms on campus. Guns can be carried only under a few specific conditions:

  •  If the person is law enforcement/qualified former law enforcement
  •  If the person is armored transport personnel
  •  If the person receives permission from the Associate Vice President of Public Safety
  •  If the person is in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)
  • Or if you have an enhanced concealed carry permit

Even if a person meets the criteria, unless given explicit written permission from the associate vice president of public safety, they still don’t have permission to carry a firearm into a dormitory nor into a large entertainment facility, including but not limited to, the Morrison Center, ExtraMile Arena or the Student Union Building.

“I have been in this position on and off for 10 years and have never given that permission to anybody,” said Interim Associate Vice President of Public Safety Jon Uda. “If they are asking to carry outside, they can get the permit and don’t need to ask me. If they are asking to carry in an entertainment facility, there just isn’t a good reason for that.”

Facilities such as ExtraMile Arena have metal detectors specifically to prevent the entrance of weapons.

Excluding entertainment facilities, pocket knives and pepper spray are both acceptable without permits. A pocket knife means specifically a folding, moderately-sized knife, such as a multi-tool. This does not protect the carrying of hunting knives, combat knives or cooking knives in a non-culinary area.

There is no held record for how many students or staff members have permission to carry firearms and nowhere can a person find a list of names through Boise State.

“We don’t keep track of that because it’s a state issue, not a BSU issue,” Uda said. “A person with an enhanced concealed carry permit can carry in the allowed areas without telling us or asking permission. They have already asked for and received that permission from the state, and as we are a state entity, we acknowledge that permission.”

The Idaho Office of the Attorney General, in conjunction with local sheriffs and the Division of Motor Vehicles, handles concealed weapons permits and the legalities involved.

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Elise Ledesma | The Arbiter

Because carriers are not required to reveal that information under normal circumstances, students with a concealed carry permit were difficult to find, and many refused to comment for their own safety and privacy, but one student was willing to respond.

“I only have a regular concealed carry permit, not an enhanced one, so I have to follow more regulations,” said freshman political science major Tucker Pasquinelli. “I cannot carry on campus at all. I can carry while off campus, like if I’m going to the grocery store, but not on campus, a school zone or a government facility.”

Enhanced concealed carry means that the permit holder takes a firearms safety course to prove proper understanding of their weapon to acquire or renew the license. A regular concealed carry permit does not require this extra step, but in turn, has a much more limited set of permissions and is less likely to be recognized by other states.

Pasquinelli has done research on what he can and cannot do on campus, as well as off campus to keep people safe. Although Pasquinelli follows the regulations, that does not mean that everybody does. No gun violence has ever been reported on campus, but one student accidentally fired a shot in a Boise State dormitory.

According to a security report from March 9, 2020, an ROTC student accidentally discharged their firearm within their dorm. Specific details about the student are withheld to protect their identity, but they had just returned from a field training exercise in Utah and did not realize that they carried two firearms in their backpack while in Sawtooth Hall. 

The student decided to do a dry fire exercise and return it to their storage facility off campus, however, the firearm was not properly emptied and fired through the door. The student immediately checked on their neighbors to ensure nobody had been injured and had the incident resolved with police and campus security. Nobody was physically harmed by the incident.

“Firearms are kept out of the dorms for everybody’s safety and to prevent reckless misuse,” Uda said. “My fear is students showing them off like toys and mishandling the firearm.”

Although the most dangerous incident, this is not the only weapon-related issue to occur on campus.

“We get a handful of incidents involving a weapon each year,” said Tana Monroe, security, police and event operations director at Boise State. “I couldn’t give you a specific number off the top of my head, and they aren’t very common, but they do occur.”

These incidents are not inherently violent. One relatively common issue is a carrier revealing their firearm, typically unintentionally. A student or staff member with an enhanced concealed carry permit may carry a firearm, but it does need to be concealed. Open carry is not allowed on campus.

If any student or staff member sees a weapon-related issue, or a different security concern on campus, Monroe recommends that person to use the Rave Guardian app. It allows students to send tips to campus security, call 9-1-1, and receive security alerts in the area. Students can also ask questions and report issues directly with campus security’s non-emergency number at (208) 426-6911.

Additionally, Boise State has active shooter classes and information on the public safety website regarding what actions can be taken to stay safe if such an event occurs.

“We’ve never had a shooting on campus, and hopefully we never will,” Monroe said. “That does not mean that students don’t need to know how to stay safe and knowledgeable.”

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