Idaho Guns-On-Campus Bill Fails

A bill allowing firearms on public university and college campuses in Idaho failed to advance Friday in the Legislature.

The Senate State Affairs Committee decided against moving the legislation after two hours of public testimony.

Republican Rep. Erik Simpson’s bill cleared the Idaho House last week and would have prohibited schools from banning firearms carried openly or by people with concealed weapons permits anywhere on campus except in undergraduate residence halls.

Guns also would have been allowed at athletic events under the measure.

Idaho law now gives university and college presidents authority to prohibit firearms on campus. Boise State University, Idaho State University, the University of Idaho, Lewis-Clark State College and several community colleges have adopted their own policies to ban firearms.

Republican Sen. Russ Fulcher of Meridian tried to push the bill through the Idaho Senate with amendments to address lawmaker concerns over provisions that would allow campus visitors to carry firearms at athletic events and performance venues.

But Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill argued that by considering the changes, the committee was acknowledging there were indeed times and places where guns were not appropriate on college campuses.

“Yet in our typical legislative arrogance, we think that we know better where those times and places are, better than those that we have charged with the duty to safeguard and manage and take responsibility for those on our campuses,” said Hill, R-Rexburg.

“Once again we demonstrate, as we have before, that our lips preach local control but our hearts are far from it,” he said.

The effort to advance the bill with amendments failed on a 6-3 vote, leaving the plan to languish in committee.

Texas lawmakers are also considering legislation to allow college students and professors to carry guns, adding momentum to a national campaign to open campuses to firearms. It would become the second state, following Utah, to pass such a broad-based law. Colorado gives colleges the option, and several have allowed handguns.

Supporters argue that campus gun violence, such as the 2007 mass shootings at Virginia Tech, show the best defense against a gunman is students who can shoot back in defense. But opponents say allowing firearms at universities would only accelerate conflict and leave students and faculty in fear, not knowing who might pull a gun over a poor grade, broken romance, drunken fraternity argument or an altercation at a football game.

In Idaho, the firearms debate hit home for Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, whose 23-year-old son died from a gunshot wound to the chest at a Boise party eight years ago. Cameron Wade Davis, a Boise State University student, was shot off campus by another student carrying a concealed weapon.

Davis sits on the Senate panel that heard the campus firearms bill on Friday. He interjected shortly after University of Idaho law student Jonathan Sawmiller argued that students with guns were responsible citizens and not, as some would suggest, drunken frat boys stumbling around firing indiscriminately.

“Please be sensitive in couching your remarks,” Davis said. “This is not an intellectual exercise for me and my family.”