Idaho lawmakers propose changes in gun access on campuses

Photo by Niamh Brennan

By Kiryn Willett & Jaxon Holmes

Firearm access is not a new concern for Idahoans. Since the beginning of the 2024 legislative session, Idaho lawmakers have brought four gun-related bills to the State Legislature. 

Boise State hasn’t had a change in their gun policies since 2015, when Section 18-3302 allowed gun owners with enhanced concealed carry permits to carry firearms on campus. In January 2024, Senate republicans introduced a bill that aimed to change this. The proposed legislation would allow anyone with a concealed carry permit to possess a firearm on public college campuses. 

In 2023, Campus Safety responded to six reports of weapons violations at Boise State. Tana Monroe, Director of Security, Police and Event Operations, explained these situations. 

“When there is someone with a gun, and we see it … we want to have a conversation with them. Sometimes it’s education and we just need to inform them what the law says”.

Monroe is unsure how a change in the law like this would look like for campus security, stating, “We will figure out what that looks like and feels like on our campus and what people are comfortable with.”

Monroe said it would be critical for students and staff to understand what is expected of them. 

“The most important thing is we want to have conversations with people, educate, and inform and make sure that if people see something, they call us,” Monroe said.

The concealed carry bill, S1228, remains in the Senate Affairs committee. A similar bill introduced in 2023 never made it out of the committee.

College campuses aren’t the only places facing possible changes in firearm regulations.  

House Bill 415 would allow employees at K-12 institutions with enhanced licenses to conceal carry weapons on campus. It passed the Idaho House with a 53-16-1 vote on Jan. 31, but then referred to the State Affairs Committee.   

The bill’s proponent, Rep Ted Hill, said that the more ideal solution would be for schools to have trained security guards, but that the legislature and constituents would not fund it. 

“We’re not going to spend the money. We’ll spend that much money to defend your boat in a storage unit, people will definitely spend the money there. They’ll spend 200 bucks for a fence around their boat, and for their bank, but they want to spend 20 bucks for their kids and their school security,” Hill said. 

According to Hill, when it comes to gun violence at schools the police often arrive after many have already been killed, which makes this bill necessary. Hill described schools as a “chasm of vulnerability” and wants to remove the gun free zone signs on schools. Hill said the legislation was a “deterrent piece”.

Hill believes the fears of guns being used incorrectly or being taken from teachers is “not based in reality”. 

“A lot of it’s the fear of guns and guns are bad. But the problem was bad people have guns, they’re very bad. And so we’re trying to defend it with good people with guns,” Hill said. “This is an obscure thing that’s never happened. So we just won’t do anything because of that — something that’s a fear that’s literally never happened.”

Yvonne Shen, a Boise High student and a board member for March For Our Lives, a student-led organization that advocates for gun control, said the bill won’t protect children. 

“From a logistical standpoint, it’s not going to protect kids. I think the intention of protecting kids is 100%. Correct. And I totally agree with that. But logically, like when you think about it, I guess from two sides, right,” Shen said. “The first side is like, you know, if you’re arming teachers, and they can have a faster response to these kinds of, you know, school shootings and whatnot, but the real like, the reality is more so that it’s just gonna give more access to guns in the first place. And it’s just gonna cause more harm than good.”

Shen shared concerns about misfiring or misplacing a firearm, and the mental health crisis that young people are experiencing. Shen said the bill does not ensure people are properly trained, and the idea that people who aren’t properly trained could bring guns on campus was “scary”.

“It would definitely make me a lot more scared to go to school, and especially with the parts of the bill that allow for other like school volunteers to concealed carry on campus as well,” Yvonne said. “I think for me, that’s one of the main concerns, just knowing that someone could show up to my school as like a volunteer and have a gun on them.”

Jacqui Hamilton leads the Idaho Chapter of Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization that supports gun restrictions that she says is “extremely opposed” to this measure. 

Current Idaho laws allow school districts to implement individual policies to allow staff to carry concealed weapons on campuses. “School board members are the closest to the community and know what the community needs … we want them to leave it in local control,” said Hamilton. 

Hamilton has been working closely with those that would be most affected by this bill. “I do not know a single teacher [in the area] that is in support of this bill … We already have the mechanisms in place for those districts that want to do that.”

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