The Senate is now taking up SB 1254, the controversial guns-on-campus bill, which allows those with enhanced concealed carry permits or retired law enforcement officers to carry guns on Idaho public college and university campuses. All of Idaho's public college presidents and the State Board of Education unanimously oppose the bill.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, told the Senate that every Idaho public college and university currently bans guns, and he doesn't believe they should. “This bill addresses that and tries to do it in a very limited way,” he said. The bill has exemptions for dorms and for large campus venues with seating for 1,000 or more.
“The end result of this is that qualifying faculty or students at our universities will no longer be prevented from exercising a fundamental right to self-defense and constitutional right to keep and bear arms,” said McKenzie, the bill’s lead sponsor. “I don’t think it is going to materially change campus life,” he said. “It is simply the Legislature saying you have a constitutional right,” and you don’t lose it when you “step onto” public college campuses. McKenzie said the university officials’ objections should carry some weight with lawmakers. But, he said, “What should carry more weight with us is the individual liberty right of Idaho citizens, and I think this promotes that in a careful way.”
The Senate's public gallery is close to full for the debate.