A bill to allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry guns on college campuses cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday and now heads to Gov. Butch Otter’s desk. Otter has not taken a formal position on the legislation.
The much-debated measure, Senate Bill 1254, passed the Idaho House on a 50-19 vote, clearing the way for the governor to have the final say on the bill. All 13 House Democrats rejected the bill, joined by six Republicans.
During the more than hour of debate on the House floor, the bill’s advocates warned that denying personal protection is harmful to students and faculty alike and infringes on Second Amendment rights.
“You are on your own,” said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, one of the bill’s sponsors. She noted that though Boise State University, one of Idaho’s four-year institutions, offers blue security kiosks across campus, she couldn’t remember where they are.
“Where they are at, I couldn’t tell you,” Perry stressed. “And I certainly couldn’t if I was desperate.”
Freshman Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise, delivered an impassioned address against the bill, telling colleagues that the measure shouldn’t be a “litmus test” for who supports Second Amendment rights. “This bill is very much not that,” adding that numerous Idahoans oppose the measure.
Boise Rep. Matt Erpelding, also a Democrat, sided with Rubel, highlighting the vocal opposition to the measure. “What I don’t understand is that so few people are asking for this,” he said. “The public wasn’t asking for this.”
The measure doesn’t allow universal carry on campus, though. The measure bans carry in dorms and in entertainment arenas holding more than 1,000 people.
Many Republicans echoed Perry, testifying that the bill would help some vulnerable segments of the population protect themselves.
Rep. Ken Andrus, R-Soda Springs, told the story of an unnamed female college student from another state who, thanks to university policy, carried a gun with her everywhere except on campus. After leaving class one night and about 50 yards from her vehicle, where she left her gun, Andrus said the student was raped at gunpoint.
If we can stop that here in Idaho, Andrus said, we must. “We don’t know if we are going to have one or not. But what if we did?” Andrus asked. “We would feel bad. We would feel remorse … I cannot go there.”
Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, criticized the ripple effects of the bill. Several of the state’s colleges and universities said they would have to spend millions of dollars to upgrade security and arm officers if this bill passes. Gannon slammed the measure as, essentially, an “unfunded mandate” from the Legislature to schools.