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Testimony: ‘Academic climate affected,’ ‘Give us a chance to save our own lives,’ ‘Great responsibility’

After lots of questions from the Senate State Affairs Committee for NRA lobbyist Dakota Moore, public testimony started on SB 1254, the guns-on-campus bill, with opponents and proponents alternating. Among those testifying:

University of Idaho interim President Don Burnett, who also heads the council of Idaho public college and university presidents, expressed “grave concern” about the bill. “It is clear that the academic climate for the ordinary student would be affected,” he said. “This proposed bill cannot achieve its avowed purpose of deterring shooters or of enabling individuals to shoot back immediately, unless it results in the carrying of loaded weapons, ready to use within seconds, in our classrooms, laboratories and other gathering places. That is not the kind of teaching and learning environment we should seek to foster.”

Kimberly McAdams, a BSU psychology professor, spoke emotionally, saying she lived in fear of a deranged individual who reportedly was coming to campus to shoot her. “I shudder to think what would have happened in a worst-case scenario, if this individual had snapped a little bit earlier,” she said. “Please give us a chance to be able to save our own lives.” She said her classroom has only one entry or exit door. “Neither myself nor my students are going to be able to escape with our lives,” she said.

Mark Browning, vice president of North Idaho College, said he’s a “fifth generation proud son” of the Browning gun manufacturing family. “My first name is Jonathan after the Jonathan Browning,” he told the committee. “I believe with this great right that we have to carry arms comes great responsibility.” He said there are frequently young children on the NIC campus, including toddlers and infants. “Yesterday, when I left campus to go to the airport I passed buses full of 3rd and 4th graders on campus for a Math Counts competition.” He urged the senators to consider the locally elected trustees who now make the decisions about guns on the Coeur d’Alene campus. “They’re held accountable when they go to the grocery store, when they go to the basketball game, when they go to church. This bill would have a serious impact on their ability to do their job,” he said. He added that though the bill says it wouldn’t have a financial impact, NIC estimates it would cost more than $130,000 to respond, by arming security officers and taking other steps.

Paul Jagosh of the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police said, “You hear stuff about, well, if a kid gets stressed he’s going to shoot a professor. … I hate to break it to you, but guns are allowed on campus right now. There are no preventive measures to prevent a person from bringing a gun on campus.” Questioned by Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, Jagosh said, “There’s a piece of paper that says guns aren’t allowed, but there’s nothing to prevent them. We believe that this will actually make the public safer.” He said, “I’m telling you we will put our lives on our line, we will die for you, while everyone else is running out of the building, we’ll put our lives on the line to protect you. But unfortunately there is going to be delays in our response, and that’s unfortunate. We believe that law-abiding, mentally sound people should have the ability to carry guns.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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