(Note: The following Guest Opinion was written by Clayton E. Cramer, who teaches history at College of Western Idaho.)
SB 1254 is about to pass the final hurdle out of the lower house of the Idaho Legislature and then to the governor’s desk for signature.
I am hearing rumors that some of the institutions of lower learning might attempt to prevent SB 1254 from becoming state law by filing suit against it. If so, they are wasting public funds. And if they do so, it is time to file suit against them for so doing.
This question has already been asked and answered in Utah and Colorado, where the University of Utah and the University of Colorado both argued that their respective state legislatures lacked the authority to require the universities to recognize state concealed weapon permits.
In the case of the University of Utah, they argued that preventing the university from enforcing its prohibition on firearms would “violate its right to academic freedom” under the First Amendment. Federal courts found that they lacked jurisdiction because of the 11th Amendment. The Utah Supreme Court ruled that, shockingly enough, the University of Utah is inside the state of Utah, and is subject to laws passed by the Utah Legislature. [University of Utah v. Shurtleff (Utah 2006)] (Who would have seen that coming?)
Colorado had a similar situation: the Colorado Legislature passed a statewide law concerning concealed carry. The University of Colorado argued otherwise, and lost before the Colorado Supreme Court. [Regents of Univ. of Colorado v. STUDENTS (Colo. 2012)] Again, the University of Colorado is also inside the state of Colorado, funded by the Colorado Legislature and subject to Colorado law. Another shocker!
The situation here is the same. If anything, SB 1254 is even more obviously intended to “occupy the field of regulation of the bearing concealed handguns,” to quote from the Colorado Supreme Court decision, and unmistakably applies to public institutions of higher education. The requirement for the enhanced concealed carry permit and the exemptions written for stadiums and large theaters give Idaho public colleges even less basis to challenge the authority of the Idaho Legislature on this matter because it demonstrates that this was not an oversight on their part, but a conscious decision.
I see a lot of complaining that Boise State is going to need metal detectors now. Why? Right now, there are no metal detectors. There could be (and probably are) people carrying guns on campus right now, and I would guess that many of them do not have permits. If metal detectors make sense to find out who is carrying guns without permits next semester, why did it not make sense this semester, when there were even fewer people who could lawfully carry on campus?
I smell panic from administrators who fantasized that they worked on a gun-free campus because the student conduct and employee conduct codes prohibited it. Nothing has really changed, but now administrators have had their fantasy balloon popped.
I do not expect those who are freaking out about this to be happy. Two years from now, most of them will be saying, “What was the problem we expected?” I do expect them to not waste public funds on suits that they are guaranteed to lose.